Ireland’s economic woes have people on their knees in search of spiritual renewal at "St. Patrick’s Purgatory."
With the collapse of the global economy hurting almost everyone, people around the world have been forced to re-prioritize what is important in life, and the Irish are no different.
But Ireland is able to provide its sons and daughters with the perfect location to reflect on what matters most. There are no nightclubs, wi-fi zones or triple mocha lattes to divert one’s attention on Lough Derg, where the shrine is located. There is nature, calm and quiet – and it is attracting people in droves.
“Lough Derg has been around for 1,500 years, it is something that has been tried and tested, unlike all the recent quick paths to prosperity. Now that the recession has hit, people are keen to revert back to something that is solid and traditional and Irish,” Deborah Maxwell, manager of Lough Derg, told IrishCentral Friday.
“Unfortunately, some people have a lot more time on their hands given the possibility that they have lost work. People are fed up with things that were almost ships in the night, whereas people know Lough Derg from their family and ancestors before them. There is an opportunity for them to refocus and come back to what is at the essence of their lives.”
Lough Derg is one of the world’s oldest pilgrimage sites, and has offered sanctuary to those in need for centuries. It is located four miles off the coast of Donegal, and the pligrimage season runs from May 20 to August 15.
The three-day pilgrimage, which costs about $71, involves staying awake for a 24-hour period, fasting, walking barefoot and saying nine stations prayers.
Though clearly it helps to have a strong faith to undertake the pilgrimage, it is not a prerequisite.
“Every pilgrim that comes has a different motivation," said Maxwell.
"There are those that are coming for the penitential aspect of the pilgrimage, but there are many that are coming, and we did a big study on this in 2006, that are coming to seek time for renewal, time for reflection and in doing that in slowing down and getting the opportunity to know themselves a little better.”
Maxwell went on to say that she has noticed many pilgrims who used to come 30 years ago returning this year, another reflection of the effect of the recession on bringing people back to what matters, and that there is a marked increase in the number of men who come to the island for the retreat.
“It used to be almost 80 percent female, 20 percent male going back many, many years, but that has change to 65-35,” she said.
“We have an 81-year-old woman out there today,” continued Maxwell. “It’s everything from groups of young men, young professionals, to family units. And many will come as individuals.”