Ireland: Lough Derg offers gift of hope for 2010

Lough Derg cross at dawn

Lough Derg cross at dawn

Yesterday, 1 May,  saw the start of the 'One Day Retreats' at the Lough Derg pilgrimage site in Co Donegal.  Lough Derg offers an exciting and varied programme of events for its 2010 season.  As in previous years one day retreats are complemented by Three Day Pilgrimages, Quiet Days, Day for Families along with Confirmation and School Retreats and the 'Life's Journey' Series of Workshops.
Welcoming the opening of the 2010 Lough Derg season Bishop Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, said:  "Lough Derg is a special place of peace and personal challenge, renowned in Irish Christian tradition since the time of St Patrick.  In former times the emphasis of the Lough Derg pilgrimage was more on physical penance and hardship.  Today pilgrims see it as a grace-filled opportunity away from the stress and busyness of modern life."
Dating back to the sixth century, Lough Derg is among the oldest centres of Christian Pilgrimage in Western Europe.  Lough Derg lies four miles north of the village of Pettigo in County Donegal, in the Diocese of Clogher.  Station Island, the location of the pilgrimage, is often referred to as St Patrick's Purgatory.

The three-day pilgrimage attracts people of all ages and walks of life, from different cultures and social backgrounds.  Stepping outside their ordinary lives and routine, they leave behind many of the trappings of the modern world.  Pilgrims will have begun their commitment by fasting from the previous midnight; they follow a set routine of prayers and actions, hallowed by 1,500 years of practice, all the while fasting and walking barefoot.

Pilgrims make nine 'Stations' during their time on the island. The challenging nature of the fasting, vigil and Stations is complemented by excellent communal celebrations in the Basilica.  One of the great experiences of Lough Derg is the warm and friendly communal relations that develop among the pilgrims.  Another interesting experience is the challenge to think differently about one's faith and to begin to develop new and fresh insights into one's life.

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