Yesterday, with close on forty people from our parish, I visited Lough Derg for the One Day Pilgrimage. In his words of welcome, Fr Owen Joe McEneaney referred to Fr Eamonn Conway’s book on Lough Derg “Island of Quiet Miracles” and commended the book to all present. He also mentioned that I had written a short review of the book. It featured some months ago in The Furrow magazine. Thinking about Lough Derg this morning, I thought it might be good to include that review here as well.
Thanks to all who joined us yesterday. God bless the work of all on Lough Derg and the Faith Journeys of all who travel there for the one or three day pilgrimage.
LOUGH DERG (Island of Quiet Miracles) by Fr Eamonn Conway
“To hear the whisper of the Lord,
you must turn down the volume
of the world. Find time to
disconnect from everything
around you and
be still in His presence.”
These lines, by an anonymous pilgrim poet, echo the work of Fr Eamonn Conway in this publication. Fr Conway’s belief in St Patrick’s Purgatory, like its encircling lake, runs deep. Because of this he wishes to remind those who have visited of its blessedness and arouse interest in the pilgrim-to-be.
There is a well-researched overview of Lough Derg’s history that, I suspect, may be revelation to many regulars on the Island. The present day format and “vigil” are contrasted with a more prolonged pilgrimage of the past when pilgrims were encaged for three days in a structure not allowing even standing room. It is interesting to note that just before the Famine 30,000 pilgrims visited Lough Derg and reassuring that today the constant stream of visitors to the Island is on a par with the highest points of its long and faith-filled history.
“Making sense of not yet” (p17) and linking the pilgrimage with the “fifth gospel” the Sea of Galilee, the author leaves no room for doubt – this is a place of prayer where encounter with God is not alone possible but probable. The point is made that it’s not that God is more likely to be in remote locations but that it may be easier to be present to Him there due to lack of distraction. The Pilgrimage is about conversion and “can be a valuable moment to reconnect with Christ in the community of the church”. (p45)
Fr Conway spends some time in exploration of the current culture in which we seek to live the Faith. Leaving the Island, in the physical journey to the shore, is paradoxically an invitation to bring what was encountered there to the mainland of our lives.
The book is introduced by Bishop-Emeritus Liam MacDaid and concludes with a reflection by the Rector, Fr McEneaney. Text is interlaced with photographs, including a picture of the Basilica perfectly reflected in the still waters of Lough Derg. A fitting image, it would seem, for the pilgrim having found him or herself afresh, standing tall again – renewed and strengthened.
It is clearly a work of the heart, thoroughly researched, beautifully presented and rooted in Jesus’ response to his early disciples when asked where he lived; “Come and see”.