May the blessing of light be on you,
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon you
and warm your heart till it glows like a great fire
and strangers may warm themselves as well as friends.
And may the light shine from your eyes,
like a candle set in the window of a home,
bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.
(Adapted from a traditional Irish blessing)
There are moments on Camino that stay with you long after you’ve made your way home. We recently led a group of International pilgrims along St Declan’s Way using the Guest House in Mount Melleray Abbey as our base for the four nights. It’s often said that good company makes the journey feel that bit shorter. Most who set out from the Rock of Cashel to take this age-old pilgrim trail to Ardmore have never met before. Stories converge in rhythm with the universe to make the wanderer feel alive again. That’s the magic of Camino.
Unscripted moments linger long into the night to guide us on our way. Sometimes, unknowingly, a flicker of light seeps into the inner vault and allows us see what might have once passed us by. It enters unannounced in ways you least expect. The trail may be timeless but the journey evolves in sync with those beside you. Each person has a story to tell, a worry to resolve, a decision to make, a memory to retrieve, a family to love. The pathway is shaped as we walk.
One such person who joined us last month had made the trip all the way from Toronto, Canada. This is her story of her time with us. Margaret has honed in on what really matters in life. We were the privileged ones to share the path with her…
My St. Declan’s Way pilgrimage was exhilarating, enriching, thoroughly unforgettable and great fun – thanks in no small part to the warmth and kindness of the two of you.
As I enter the final quarter of my life, the time was right to return to my childhood home of Ireland. And, while I know that the relentless drive that has stood me so well in life and in business is an innate part of me, I recognize that it is now time to seriously temper it. The pilgrimage enabled me to reflect on the past and my hope for a calm, meaningful life in the future. I completed the journey with a sense of reconciliation and hope.
The beauty of the landscape was mesmerizing – the winding country lanes, the steep (waaaaay too steep at times!) hills, the misty river scapes, the lush green fields, the dappled light of the forests, the expansive beaches and blue sea. I will remember it always, as I will the people we met along the way: Iain (Journeying UK Leader), Conor (Guest Guide), John G. (Pilgrim Paths Author/Rock of Cashel Guide), Gearoid (Lismore Guide), James (Ardmore Guide), Keith (Lafcadio Hearn Gardens Guide), John the bus driver and his dad Laurence, my fellow pilgrims and Liam Lynch who came to life through his story, Grainne (St. Declan’s Way Chairperson), Audrey (Deise Refugee Response) and, of course, Brother Seamus from Mount Melleray Abbey. While I find the concept of true piety difficult to grasp, I have come closer to an understanding of it since meeting him.
I will especially remember Katya, Galiana, Anastasia and Vira. The “Ukrainian refugees” about whom we have been hearing through the news media for the past few months came to life through them. Their spirit of survival and determination to make a meaningful and happy life for themselves and their children was as inspiring as the sadness evoked by their losses. I will certainly remember them in my prayers and wish them the very best for the future.
Closest to my heart, though, will be the memory of you two. You are extraordinary people with an incredible capacity to relate to others and a great generosity of spirit. Phil, I thoroughly enjoyed our chats and our kidding about and will always be grateful to you for dragging me over the mountain. Elaine, you radiate an inner light that touches everyone you meet. And you make the best scones in the world!
My Irish experience continued after leaving you, At the bus station I met a nice, young man from Turkey, Haroun, who is in Ireland to study English. He kindly loaded my luggage onto the bus. And then, the bus driver! She was a slightly built, exquisitely beautiful auburn-haired woman – one would have expected her to have stepped out of a painting rather than behind the wheel of a Bus Eireann coach. I expressed dismay at not being able to find a taxi for my luggage when she told me as I boarded the bus that she would be stopping at the Customs House rather than the main bus terminal. She told me in a lovely soft voice not to worry – she would see that I got a taxi. In keeping with my new-found mindset of not worrying about everything, I took her at her word and sat back and enjoyed the drive back to Dublin. When we arrived at Heuston Station, she left the bus and was gone for quite a while. When she returned, she beckoned me off the bus and introduced me to a taxi driver whom, she assured me, would look after me. Can you believe it? She had gone off to find a taxi for me!
I was so touched that I wrote to Bus Eireann to commend them on having such an exceptional employee and asking them to convey my thanks to her. After writing to you a short while ago, I continued reading my email and found an acknowledgement from Bus Eireann, indicating that they would pass along my message to the driver, Laura.
Along St. Declan’s Way, I did not mention it as I could not trust myself to speak of it without falling apart. My second youngest sister, Laura, died a couple of months ago of cancer. Naturally, I was grief stricken over losing a sister and seeing her suffer so much in the end. I was also profoundly unsettled and suddenly acutely aware of my own mortality: while I had never consciously thought of it, I had subconsciously always assumed that as the eldest of the family, I would be the first to go. This death played a large part in my motivation to undertake the Pilgrimage.
Receiving such kindness at the end of it from someone named Laura seems more than a coincidence. I am too grounded a person to interpret it as a sign. But, this connection has added a completeness to an already very meaningful journey.
Like the robin on our walk, or the young woman from Ukraine, Vira, who sang so beautifully for us, the most extraordinary and grace-giving things occur every now and then in life.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert.
May you approach your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you glad and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
(Special thanks to Margaret, from Canada, for sharing her story with us)
Dr. Phil Brennan and Elaine are looking forward to leading groups from around Ireland and beyond on our signature ‘Celtic Camino in the steps of St Declan’ over the coming months in association with Mount Melleray Abbey and Cahir House Hotel along with our ‘3 Day Camino Escape’ with The Tower Hotel Waterford as our base. We will also be teaming up with Original Irish Hotels to roll out unique Camino experiences to include Glendalough, St. Mullins, Ardmore, Gougane Barra and Dingle and we look forward to leading our first groups along St David’s Way in Wales this Autumn. You can check date availability through our website at www.waterfordcamino.com or contact us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org