For the first time the national Reek Sunday pilgrimage and Mass on Croagh Patrick was televised live on RT1. The annual pilgrimage, which takes placeon the last Sunday in July.In keeping with this specially dedicated Year of Vocation for the Catholic Church in Ireland, the theme for the 2008 Croagh Patrick pilgrimage was Vocation.

Prior to this event, Archbishop Neary gave an interview about his earliest memories of climbing the Reek

Nature’s Cathedral of the West

Homily by Most Rev Michael Neary, DD, Archbishop of Tuam
on the occasion of the 2008 Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage

Reek Sunday 2008Welcome to the summit of Croagh Patrick, natures Cathedral of the West. An age of computer technology and rapidly developing civilisation might have been expected to rob us of the capacity to be surprised. Repeated discoveries of our creative strength, however, can have quite the opposite effect, stimulating thirst for that ultimate creative event which is the kingdom. You are not at your computer terminals today. You are here.

The rediscovery of mystery is surely one of the great challenges facing our age. Here on Croagh Patrick, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in the world, man and mountain meet and we are enveloped in mystery.

This is a holy mountain, made more holy by the men and women who have walked and prayed their way to the top one generation after another. On these slopes we discover our need of the support of others, the encouraging word and the outstretched hand to those with aching limbs and flagging spirit. This mountain is a parable on life itself and the great lesson from this pilgrim mountain is that, in the Church we all stand in need of each other for we are all struggling sinners who stand in need of each others forgiveness.

Croagh Patrick Chapel

In the midst of our recent wealth and prosperity we failed to find the inner joy, peace and faith that we might have expected.

Today consumer values are often not creatively interpreted. True, they can seduce and reduce everything to wealth and security. The truly reflective person learns from this and probes deeper. In the midst of our recent wealth and prosperity we failed to find the inner joy, peace and faith that we might have expected. Faith enables and encourages us to search for meaning in the particular call we have received from God. This year has been designated as a year when we reflect upon and pray about the call or vocation we have received. Vocation is a call to witness, service and love. It is not so much about what we do but about who we are and how we live our lives. In years gone by this would have focused solely on the call to religious life or priesthood but now we realise that through our baptism, we are all called to live out our lives in whatever vocation or ministry we find ourselves. Like the climbers on the mountain this day we are conscious of how much we depend on each other. On the day of baptism we were all given the mission of taking part in the endless work of Christ. We all have our unique call in our families, in our work, in our monasteries, convents, presbyteries and communities. Some receive a call to marriage, others to single life, to religious life or priesthood.

On the one hand, as religious and priests, we depend on, are influenced, inspired, supported and challenged by the heroic sacrifices which married people make, and by the way in which those called to the single life so generously respond, as they live out their respective vocations. On the other hand, all of us would agree that Ireland, without the prophetic witness of religious sisters and brothers in education, healthcare and so many other areas, would be a poorer place.

A Church bereft of a vibrant priesthood cannot proclaim the Gospel as effectively as it should.

The priest ministers to and on behalf of the Church. A Church bereft of a vibrant priesthood cannot proclaim the Gospel as effectively as it should. In situations of bereavement and brokenness, in tragedy and trauma, sickness and separation the priest will be found standing shoulder to shoulder with his people in the gardens of their Gethsemane.

Priests have a responsibility for preaching Christs Gospel. Its not easy preaching the Gospel which runs counter to a consumerist culture. In this year of St. Paul we are reminded that it takes a crucified Church to bring a crucified Christ to the world; it is not easy to stand on Calvary. The priest needs the supportive prayers of his people; he stands in need of forgiveness and understanding and, now and again, a word of encouragement.

Today the priest is expected to be a man of courage, energy and compassion who wades into the impossible and makes things new.

Today the priest is expected to be a man of courage, energy and compassion who wades into the impossible and makes things new. His ministry is a life-long struggle to open up the world to Gods power and thereby transform human relationships. His pastoral task is one of empowering others as he stands free and hope-filled in a world that is fearful. A new generation of priests will spring up when they see the full living of the Christian life in their homes, their schools, in their work places and parish communities. Only then will they be prompted to give themselves to radical service of Christian people.

When God calls a man to the altar he wont intervene as dramatically as He did to Paul on the Road to Damascus, but will whisper through the family and people who nurtured him from the day of his baptism when the whole Christian adventure began. Maybe I have to ask myself one question: could God be calling me to life as a priest, as a religious sister or brother? And for those of us who have already discerned our vocation in life, another question: are we supporting our young people as they try to find their vocation in life and thus deep inner happiness. As faith opens us in wonder and awe to Gods creation in this hallowed place, we become more conscious of our need of each other, our responsibilities and the contribution which as laity, religious and priests we can make to each other and to bringing about Gods Kingdom. We remember Christs words about the faith which would move mountains; today we pray that this holy mountain will move faith.

Notes

Croagh Patrick, (c.2,510ft/765m) Irelands holy mountain, dominates the landscape of southwest Mayo both spiritually and physically. The Croagh Patrick pilgrimage is associated with St Patrick who, in 441, spent 40 days and nights fasting on the summit, following the example of Christ and Moses. The name Reek Sunday comes from Patricks ability to Christianise many pagan customs including the festival of Lughnasa, which previously had heralded the start of the harvest festival honouring the ancient pagan god Lugh, whose name is encompassed in the Irish word for August: Lughnasa. This festivals tradition became absorbed into the new Christian beliefs and locally become known as Domhnach na Cruaiche (Reek Sunday).

This pilgrimage has been carried out uninterrupted for over 1500 years. Croagh Patrick has over 100,000 visitors annually with up 20,000 people expected this weekend. For Reek Sunday 2006, Archbishop Neary and other pilgrims were accompanied by Cardinal Sen Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. As successor to St Patrick, Cardinal Brady was the first Archbishop of Armagh to climb the Holy Mountain since St Patrick. In 2005, Archbishop Neary unveiled a plaque to mark the centenary of St Patrick’s Oratory on the summit.

Further information on Croagh Patrick, and a virtual tour of the mountain, can be viewed on the website of the Archdiocese of Tuam www.tuamarchdiocese.org