My Pilgrimage to St. Elen’s Well, Part 1

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​[Note: As I began to write this, I thought it would be an emotional look back at an important pilgrimage that I undertook last summer. However, as I began to write, it seemed that before I got to the actual pilgrimage and the feelings that it conjured, I had to wade through the logistics of discovering the well, and finding that it was important for me to visit it. The coincidences that have crossed my life’s path and Wales astound me every time I discover them.]

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Sundays in Lent – 4th Friday

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A pilgrimage is one of those things that is encouraged throughout most religions. Each Friday I’ve been trying to offer you a virtual tour of places to take time to visit and meditate and pray on.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Armagh

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City

Down Cathedral and St. Patrick’s gravesite (more of an exterior tour) – Downpatrick

Sundays in Lent – 3rd Friday

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Pilgrimage

Whitefriar Street Church, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Dublin, Ireland was one of those places on the map that i expected to see from the outside, take a few pictures of, and move on down the street. We were on a very limited time clock, one of the only ones on this trip. The map wasn’t even a real map; it was a tourist map – not every street and not to scale. The boys were going to search out the comic stores of Dublin, and my daughter and I were going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin item n my bucket list.

I had done no research and so while I rushed to the Cathedral, I had no idea that we couldn’t get in without a ticket and we didn’t have the time to wait in line for one, having arranged to meet back at Starbucks and then drive north and back to Belfast.

In hindsight I would have skipped the Dublin cathedral and spent some actual time in Downpatrick in the north. I had dismissed it, clinging to my childhood stereotype that St. Patrick was of the south. I seem to always make the mistake of lack of research despite mounds of research.

Before heading to St. Patrick’s, we, my daughter and I, stood on the corner adjacent to the Starbucks which was adjacent to our hostel to get our bearings and plan our foray through the streets of Dublin. It was then that we heard the bong of a church bell.

We quickly realized that on the corner directly across the little alley where the hostel was, was a church, and upon further investigation discovered that it was the very church I had wanted to see.

Right place, right time were both on my side as we entered to gape at the first of sixteen shrines, a life size depiction of Calvary. It was beautiful and sad, thrilling and literally breathtaking and haunting and everything all at once. We stepped around and into the small alcove that was St. Albert’s Shrine and holy well dedicated to him, and as I contemplated taking a cupful of water from the shrine in my hand I was made aware that mass was about to begin.

Mass. In Dublin. Among sixteen shrines. I couldn’t pass this opportunity by.

For today’s pilgrimage I’m going to show you what I saw. They have a beautiful church with a guide to each of the shrines as well as a 360° virtual tour.

I found the mass fulfilling, the shrines inspiring, lighting the candle prayerful. I love that technology allows me to share this with you.

Sundays in Lent – 2nd Friday

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With his feast day happening yesterday, this second week of Lent brings us to pilgrimage at St. David’s Cathedral in Wales. It is a part of the Church of Wales and its new bishop is the first woman: Canon Joanna Penberthy is the 129th bishop of St. David’s.

Pilgrims have been coming to St. David’s since the 6th century.

Here a few links to ge you started. I really enjoyed the video that I’ve posted lastly.

Virtual Tour of St. David’s Cathedral

What you’ll find at Ty’r Pererin [the Pilgrim’s House] –

Sundays in Lent – 1st Friday

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Use this oppotunity to go on pilgrimage. I know that we all can’t just hop on a jet and see the world or pray around the world, but we can visit some places that inspire us to be more prayerful and draw us closer to G-d. 

Lourdes is one of those places.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VGZxmB38Sjs

Spiritual Sites

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What I call my “relics”. These are not historical or sacred in any way except to me. 1. (Top left): Dried flowers and rock along with holy water from St. Elen’s Well in Wales. 2. (Bottom left): The top and bottom of a rock from what is still standing of my mother-in-law’s uncle’s house in Northern Ireland. 3. (Top right): A shell and a rock (or a fossilized rock) from Ballintoy. 4. Middle right): Holy water and pebble from St. Olcan’s Holy Well and a rock from the Cranfield Church ruins as well as the top and bottom of the rocks from the site. 5. (Bottom right): The dried flowers and rock from St. Elen’s Well without the holy water pictured. (c)2017

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A Spiritual Marathon

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​I had expected to be able to post throughout this week, but unfortunately this is probably the busiest week of Lent for me. Until next week that is. As I mentioned to my priest last night, it’s all good busy, but this morning I was beyond exhausted. I stayed in bed an extra hour until my headache subsided, and now I’m slowly getting ready for today.

As part of my Lenten journey this year, in going to the desert figuratively, and finding my own wilderness, I have taken on many spiritual projects that are dear to me. It was fortunate that my local retreat center had so many sessions and experiences to choose from.

I have been keeping a Lenten journal since Ash Wednesday, and I have been loving it. From the feel of the pen gliding across the paper to the beautiful green Celtic designed journal itself, it has given me a feeling of purpose that I will try to continue, although not daily, throughout the spring and summer, and perhaps convert it to an Advent journal later in the year. Continue reading

First Week of Lent

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Why Do People Fast for Lent? (a view from Vox)

As the first full week of Lent comes to a close, I thought I would talk about some of the difficulty I’ve been having during this year’s time of reflection. It really has been a struggle to find what I want to make of this Lenten season.

On Sunday last, I finally decided, after four days that I would give up bread for Lent. Not all bread products, but the delicious, soft, warm, fluffy bread. Then on Monday at my friend’s funeral reception, I ate a roll. It was not unintentional. I wanted the roll, and I took one. I probably would have had two, but since I knew that I had succumbed I didn’t want to compound my misstep. I do plan on going to confession on Saturday, and I plan on abstaining from bread for the rest of Lent.

I could not decide on what would be a meaningful fast. Everything seemed hollow and superficial. I thought of the other items I’d given up for Lent in the past: diet Coke, ice cream, and McDonald’s breakfast burritos. For some reason, I feel like chocolate should also be on that list, but I don’t recall actually giving it up. Perhaps it was on the list of options in the past.

Should I give up all three?

No, that would be crazy, and near nigh impossible. The abstention is supposed to be thoughtful and somewhat difficult, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be impossible.

I finally decided on bread for a few reasons:

1. I eat way too much bread. [But it’s sooooo good.]

2. My doctor wants me to eliminate bread and sugar and empty calories from my diet. I did this for three months last year and I lost almost thirty pounds. Then, I got lazy, gained it all back, and then some, and I feel much more crappy.

3. Bread would be not impossilbe, but it would also be challenging, and the benefit at the end of forty days would be both physical and spiritual.

So, bread it is.

I am also adding to my Lenten “diet”.

1. I’m returning to the 9am daily mass when I don’t have a prior commitment. On the other two days, I’m planning tea and meditation and/or prayer.

2. I’m keeping a Lenten journal.

3. I’m speaking out, but trying to do so in a more diplomatic way.

4. I’m finding me, and being me more often.

5. Prayer, fast, alms. I’m thinking more about the particulars of Lent, and how to carry Lent throughout my year.

I am also reading Not By Bread Alone. It is a reflection book very much like the Advent one I liked so much.

I am going to try and cook one meal a week. I have been poorly disposed to cooking for quite a while now. Some of it is depression, and some of it is that I haven’t done it in so long, it feels weird to start again.

I have many retreats/workshops, mainly at the Dominican Retreat Center that give me so much spiritually and through fellowship with others.

I’m less self-conscious about discussing my differences with many of the Catholics I know. I talk about growing up Jewish, which not everyone knows, but it really relates to who I am today, and how I approach my Catholicism. I talk about my feminism without as much embarrassment as I used to have. I defend Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, diplomatically. I embrace my allyship of LGBT, especially youth and trans people who need more allies. I accept and embrace my thoughts and beliefs on reproductive rights, even where it diverges from doctrine.

As a funny way to end these thoughts of Lent, as a Jewish person, and yes, I still consider myself to be Jewish as much as I’m Catholic, I find it funny the dietary rules of Lent as compared to Yom Kippur. During the twenty-four hours of Yom Kippur, our fast was no food or drink, and typically most adults would spend the entire day in temple in prayer. I would only take water with my medicine and I only ate when I was pregnant. But Lent…you only fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and you abstain from meat on those days as well as all of the Fridays in Lent. But only if you are under 59. And a Catholic fast is one normal sized meal, but as many as two small meals with no in between meal snacking. I think water is acceptable throughout the day. This seems so easy to my Jewish mind.

I also know that it’s the thought that counts, so while I am partaking in these fasts and abstentions, I am reading and reflecting, meditating and contemplating, and drawing closer to G-d without all the hub-bub of food getting in the way.

Lent is a slow down to discern what is important, and to set goals for the rest of the year after the celebration of Easter.

This is only the beginning of the time in the desert, but it is not a trudge, but a slow pace to get to the other side better than before, and the first steps have been taken.

May your fast be easy.

Book News

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​Book News is a new series that is for sharing, for sounding board, for feedback, and for my own accountability. I’ve mentioned several times in the past about the two books that I’ve been “in the middle of” for what seems like forever. I feel like my Wales book is a reward for when my House book is finished. The problem with that is that writing the House book is extraordinarily emotional and I have a hard time getting through it for several reasons that I need to address within the pages of the book.

I don’t know if it will be a monthly or a biweekly feature (I’m leaning towards biweekly) , but it will be on my calendar, and so I will need to set goals based on my outlines, and begin the research for some of their aspects.

Book News will let me keep a log of those things that aren’t necessarily post-worthy or essay/articles, but that still need to be accomplished in order to publish.

I think this will work for me, and I appreciate your support as I make changes and grow as a writer.

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