07 November 2012

For the Love of Saint Patrick (retreat day 1)

So, I'm a little behind on posting ... it's been a busy 10-ish days!

When I left you last, I was preparing to spend 4 days on retreat with my fellow YAVs. We had a great time! We began by heading from Belfast to Armagh, which is the seat for both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. Both denominations have Cathedrals, both named St. Patrick's, in the city. Fun fact: this gives Armagh the honor of being the only city in the world with two cathedrals of the same name!

St. Patrick's Cathedral
(Church of Ireland)
Our first stop was St. Patrick's (Church of Ireland). We were welcomed by Rev. Grace Clunie from the Centre for Celtic Spirituality (an ecumenical mission project of the church), who gave us a tour of the Cathedral. We learned about the history of Armagh, as well as the church site - the hill where this church is located has been a holy site for over 1500 years. Originally a site for pre-christian tribal worship, St. Patrick founded his first stone church in Ireland here in 445.

Grace also taught us about Celtic spirituality, which draws its inspiration from the early prayers of the Celtic world. I could paraphrase the brochure, but since this is already looking like a post of epic length (even after breaking the retreat into several posts), I will direct those interested in learning more directly to the site for the Centre for Celtic Spirituality.

Stained glass featuring
Ferdomnach of Armagh
with Sts Brendan, Brigid,
Patrick and Columba 
After the tour, we spent some time in the practice of Celtic prayer, which focused on awareness of the sacred presence in this place. It was a great way to begin a retreat, especially one that would take place in such beautiful surroundings as the Mourne Mountains. We were even able to share the YAV tradition of Psalm 139.

I will include a few excerpts of our worship below:

Affirmation of Faith
I believe, O God, that you are the eternal Creator of life.
I believe, O Christ, that you are the eternal source of love.
I believe, O Holy Spirit, that your presence fills the universe.
I believe, O Holy Trinity, that you created my soul and formed all my days. Amen.
St. Patrick's (Catholic)

Final Prayers

Circle us Lord, keep light and love within, keep danger without. 
Circle us Lord, keep childlike trust within, keep fear without. 
Circle us Lord, keep health and peace within, keep dis-ease without. 
Deep peace of the quiet earth. Deep peace of the flowing air. 
Deep peace of the ocean's depth, deep peace of the God of peace. Amen.

After sharing a meal (and some great discussion) with Grace, we headed to ... St. Patrick's (Catholic).

We didn't get a formal tour here, so it was more of a self-guided affair. We spent our time here just soaking in the intricate mosaic work and gorgeous stained glass. There is something about a Catholic church that hits all your senses, and just walking through in silence was a profound experience.

This building was not as old as the Anglican cathedral, but also claims a link to Saint Patrick. The story of St. Patrick and the fawn ends at this spot, known as Tealach na Licci (Sandy Hill), which is considered a prophetic reference by the Saint to the second cathedral built in his name. I was glad for the opportunity to explore both of these historic cathedrals during our visit.

We left Armagh and headed to our rented house in Mayobridge, Co. Down. We took a moment for excitement over the presence of the elusive BATHTUB, and rooms were quickly assigned. We went for a walk before dinner, where a few of us realized our true potential as sheep-whisperers. I know you were worried that I might not get this on film, but never fear:

I know, you're impressed. 

We spent the rest of the evening in front of the fire, reading and playing card games. It was pretty much how we spent all free moments of the week (that we weren't sleeping), and pretty much exactly what I needed.

Anna and I were in charge of that night's Bible Study, so I leave you with this:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work, Yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world, Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine forth on a troubled world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
-Teresa of Avila

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