Island of Quiet Miracles - Lough Derg
A new book is promising to open up the mystery of Lough Derg to a whole new generation.
For more than 1,500 years, Lough Derg has been a place of Christian pilgrimage, prayer and worship.
This new book takes the reader to an understanding of the spirituality and tradition of this ancient but ever new place of pilgrimage and why so many people, young and old alike, continue to journey to it.
Written by Fr Eamonn Conway, it is one account of how a relationship with God might be supported and nurtured.
"The real inspiration for this book are the pilgrims themselves and my sense over the last 30 years working on the island of the joy the pilgrimage can bring," he said.
"It seems strange that going without things whilst on pilgrimage that we can actually reach a place of deep joy in ourselves and that is the experience of Lough Derg.
"I wanted to share the healing I know so many people have experienced here including myself over the years of doing pilgrimage on Lough Derg."
The whole area surrounding the place of pilgrimage is known as Termon, from the Irish Tearmann, meaning sanctuary - a place of refuge where people can go to without being judged.
"A place where you can feel safe, where you feel protected. I feel a lot of pilgrims come to Lough Derg and experience that as well," Fr Conway added.
"Today we are living a more frenetic lifestyle than ever before, where the noise of life is so constant that to come to a place which is really free of the way technology can invade our lives - our personal space - to be free of interruption, a place where we can get in touch with our deepest selves, it is really a great gift to come to Lough Derg."
Fr Conway added that quiet miracles referred to the way in which he had experienced so many people who had come to Lough Derg with all kinds of internal hurt and burden.
"Miracles where the laws of nature are suspended are the ones we hear about in the headlines. But the healing of the mind, of the spirit that takes place on Lough Derg is a much quieter sort and they take place here almost every day," he said.
"This happens through conversation with other pilgrims or though simply communing with the beauty of the place in which God's presence is also revealed or also in a very special way through the sacrament of reconciliation that takes place here.
"People can stand up straight and walk away from something that they felt they had done and was unforgivable or maybe something that was done to them about which they have been carrying a grudge for years or even longer - decades. They can walk away healed.
"You know it almost instantly when you meet them during the course of their pilgrimage, they would often say it to you in a quiet way. But this is not something we can talk about easily in a public way as it is a very intimate moment between the pilgrim and whoever they confide in on the island. But you can see their joy, it is palpable particularly when pilgrims leave the island. I have never yet met a pilgrim who said on their departure, that was a waste of time."
He added that the new book opened Lough Derg up to a whole new generation of pilgrims whilst at the same time rekindling the importance of the spiritual heritage of the place for people who have, perhaps, been dozens of times.
"Pilgrimage on Lough Derg has the potential to transform your life; whether seeking answers to life's questions, searching for direction or simply reflecting on life-changing decisions or giving thanks to God: the book itself through its engaging invitation to experience the unique gift that is Lough Derg captures the often talked about magnetism of the island."
:: The book is published by The Irish Catholic Newspapers and is available online at www.irishcatholic.ie/shop/ or direct from Lough Derg by calling 00353 71 9861518.
What is available on Lough Derg?
Three Day Pilgrimage: The pilgrimage season is now open and during June through until the August 13. There is no need to book. Coming on Three Day Pilgrimage the pilgrim agrees to undertake the pilgrimage programme of prayer and quiet reflection in bare feet, keeping vigil and maintaining the fast which begins from midnight on the day you are arriving on the island.
The pilgrim will be on the island for two nights, arriving around midday on the first day and departing at 10am on the third day.
Admission to the island is £60 and this includes all services, hostel accommodation, Lough Derg daily meal, boat return journey.
Full details of the pilgrimage are available on www.loughderg.org or contact 00353 71 9861518.
The Living Church in Belfast is organising a coach to bring people on pilgrimage on Friday July 1 to Sunday July 3. For further details contact Geraldine on 028 9069 0920.