Croagh Patrick is a conical hill on the west coast of Ireland - near Westport, Co. Mayo. It rises from the mountain ridge to a height of 2500 feet and, each year, attracts thousands of pilgrims.
It is said that St Patrick spent a whole Lent on the summit - fasting and praying. It is also said that this was where he stood to banish the snakes from Ireland...
Legends abound about St Patrick who was, in fact probably born in Wales. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to work as a slave-shepherd in Ireland. Here, he learnt what it meant to endure loneliness and hardship - but also the power of constant prayer. He said that he prayed about 100 times a day - folowing the celtic pattern of praying for God's blessing on each and every activity during the course of a day.
Eventually, Patrick escaped - but the call of the Irish was too strong and seemed to call him back to walk with them again. So, he returned and began a mission that was to last thirty years. They were not easy - the pagan chiefs were strong and did not take kindly to what they saw as a threat to their power. Patrick was often in serious physical danger - but what frightened him more was the spiritual threats he encountered.
His most famous prayer is called St Patrick's Breastplate - and gives a powerful image of someone preparing to take up arms against a fearsome enemy. Ultimately, though, like St Paul, his greatest strength is Christ - Christ before him - behind him -on his left hand - on his right hand - above - below... Christ enfolding and protecting him in impenetrable spiritual armour.
Pilgrims come to Croagh Partrick at all times of the year but particularly on Patrick's feast day 17 March and the last Sunday in July. The favoured time is to set out before - clambering up the steep tracks that make their way to the top - hoping to arrive at the summit to watch as the sun rises on a new day...
However - this may not always happen!
The pilgrims often prepare for their ascent by fasting and many undertake the climb barefoot as an act of penance.
At the foot of the hill is the wellspring where St Patrick baptised his first converts.
His statue stands at the beginning of the path - as if in blessing on those who are setting out on their arduous journey. In his hand is the shamrock that he made famous by using it to explain the doctine of the Trinity - three leaves but one stem - one plant. Like many of the Celtic saints, St Patrick's gift was to find ways of expressing great and complex truths with a simplicity that people could understand and make their own.
The photographs are taken from the Croagh Patrick site linked below
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