From Reek to Creed

Reek Sunday, they call it – the last Sunday in July when tens of thousands of people climb Croagh Patrick.  It’s a tradition deeply rooted in the Irish Soul but not one I’ve ever been part of.  If you know me and know the Reek, chances are you can connect the dots!!  If you don’t, well that’s another story!

The “Reek” is quite a climb.  I’ve been there ………….

Once!  I climbed it back in the early 90s with a few people from Collooney parish.  I’ve been sort of there twice since then.  I’ll have another go, in time but setting no deadline.  Why mention it today?  The answer is found in yesterday.

We had our Annual Cemetery Mass in Naomh Mobhí Cemetery.  It was incredible to see so many people there. I thought to take a photograph at some stage of the congregation but that didn’t happen.  I did manage to get a photograph of their cars though!

I had a few words on the Parish Bulletin this week about Cemetery Masses and why they are so important to people:

By Sunday we will have celebrated Mass in four of the Cemeteries in the parish (St Celsus’ Cemetery, Kilkelly, St Patrick’s, St Celsus’ Culmore and Naomh Mobhí).  During the week we will celebrate Mass at Urlaur Abbey with a special remembrance there for all who are buried in its hallowed grounds and later in the year we will celebrate Mass in St Brigid’s Cemetery, Urlaur.  All these Masses are very well attended and important to all who come along to say a prayer and remember the dead.

It raises the question, “WHY?”  Why are these so important?  Why do we place such emphasis on remembering the dead?  It is not because of death but because of life.  We don’t remember people because they died, we remember (and love) them because they lived.

Love is the reason we celebrate these Masses.  Love for those who have gone before us and a deep belief in God’s love for us all, a love that goes beyond the grave.  The love made real when Jesus called Lazurus from the grave and invited his friends to “unbind him” and “let him go free”.  We too pray for the happy release of all who have died, confident that our love for them and our prayers for them continue to matter deeply.

The morning was lovely but we had a brief fall of rain during the Mass.  It happened just at the time I was going to share a few words by way of homily.  I hadn’t intended it to be long but just to be sure, God sent a little rainfall to hurry me up!  This is where the “Reek” came into play.  There were at least two people at the Cemetery Mass who had earlier that same morning climbed the Reek.  I never cease to be amazed by the dedication of people.  We buried a man in the parish last year who, from his childhood days, never missed a “Reek Sunday”. He told me one time he used cycle there (75KM), climb the mountain and cycle home again.

On Saturday I was driving into Westport for a Wedding Reception and Croagh Patrick was ahead of me, unmoved and ever present, tall and strong but its summit was not visible.  There was a mist down on the summit that made it impossible to make make out the towering point of the mountain.  I knew it was there but it could not be seen.  My inability to see it, the mist’s covering of it, could not take away the truth that the summit was still there.

That’s the point I wanted to take to our Cemetery Mass yesterday.  Grief, like that mist, envelops our view. Our loved ones, once clearly visible to us may no longer be within our range of vision but the reality of their presence and the depth of our love for them remains as certain as the Croagh Patrick summit.

Saturday’s mist gave way on Sunday morning to Pilgrims’ steps and the summit was reached.  I believe we can work through grief, not always quickly or easily but step by step, bit by bit the climb can be made and the summit reached.