20,000 Expected to Attend Traditional Irish Pilgrimage

Reek Sunday Pilgrimage Follows the Footsteps of St. Patrick

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COUNTY MAYO, Ireland, JULY 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Thousands of pilgrims are expected to attend the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage on Ireland’s Croagh Patrick in the Archdiocese of Tuam this weekend. The yearly event has been carried out uninterrupted for over 1,500 years. Croagh Patrick has over 100,000 visitors annually with up to 20,000 people expected Sunday.

Pilgrims young and old travel from across the country to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, stopping at various stations on the climb to pray before celebrating Mass on the summit. The Croagh Patrick pilgrimage is associated with St. Patrick who, in the year 441, spent 40 days and nights fasting on the summit, following the example of Christ and Moses. 

The name ‘Reek Sunday’ comes from Patrick’s ability to christianize many pagan customs including the festival of Lughnasa, which previously had heralded the start of the harvest festival honouring the ancient pagan god Lugh. This festival’s tradition became absorbed into the new Christian beliefs and locally become known as 'Domhnach na Cruaiche' (Reek Sunday).

The pilgrimage will be led by Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam, who will be joined this year by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown.

"It is a very penitential exercise, there's no doubt about that," said Archbishop Neary in a video invitation to the pilgrimage.  

"But it is an opportunity to enter into contact with God. You’re deprived of some of the luxuries of life, the opportunity to sit back and enjoy, to become passive. Whereas on pilgrimage you’re active, you’re participating, you’re sharing with others and you’re also sharing with God, because you’re conscious of the fact that you are on the pilgrim path of life. You’re endeavoring to acknowledge the faults and the failures and to bring all of those to a merciful and forgiving God," he said.