On pilgrimage in Ireland | Persons, places and things

Barb Arland-Fye
Matt Teets takes a picture of his sister Valerie on Croagh Patrick Mountain in County Mayo, Ireland, on September 4 during The Catholic Messenger Pilgrimage to Ireland.

By Barb Arland-Fye

On a misty morning walk along a path lined with trees and manicured hedges in County Mayo, Ireland, I saw a rainbow and felt the reassuring presence of God.

Some other pilgrims on our Catholic Messenger Pilgrimage to Ireland saw the rainbow, too — the beginning of our fifth day of pilgrimage — including Linda Pieper, who told me, “We saw a miracle.”

The rainbow seemed like a miracle, a greeting from God, to awaken our senses to the gifts of God’s creation as we savor a journey of faith — 33 of us — no longer strangers but companions on the journey.


Our pilgrimage began Aug. 31 on a bus ride to Chicago and an overnight flight to Dublin with Bishop Thomas Zinkula, our spiritual leader, on this 10-day pilgrimage.

This journey of faith takes us through the countryside, the flatlands of the center of Ireland and along its rugged, mountainous coastline where we absorb awe-inspiring views of God’s grandeur.

We have seen cattle and sheep grazing along the way. A few of those sheep are oblivious to the rules of the road!

As pilgrims, we have been moved by stories of faith, such as that of Father Patrick Peyton, who leaned into Christ and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in gratitude devoted his life to promoting the family rosary.

Also inspiring are the 15 witnesses to the Apparition of Our Lady of Knock, who gave hope to the Irish as they feared the return of famine in 1879.

St. Patrick, a victim of human trafficking, found his faith in captivity and returned to Ireland in response to God’s call and inspired countless people to become Christians and to embrace the faith. How can we not sense the miracle of his selfless ministry throughout Ireland? It led him to fast for 40 days on Croagh Patrick Mountain, now a place of pilgrimage for so many of the faithful.

Bishop Zinkula’s homilies during Mass inspire and challenge us to explore what it means to be a Catholic pilgrim, moving beyond ourselves, focusing on the wellbeing of others, as we continue the journey to our true homeland.

“Pilgrims walk with open hands, accepting the gifts of what and whom they encounter,” Bishop Zinkula said in his letter to his co-pilgrims in the pilgrimage worship aid. “Pilgrims are open to the unexpected, for our God is a God of surprises.”

We know that no journey is easy or without a few detours along the way but we journey together, trusting that God is with us every step of the way. Our faith is a miracle in the making.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org)

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