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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

‘Unless you shall do Penance, you shall all likewise perish.’

—Luke, 13:3.

The station commences with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in St. Patrick’s Church.

The pilgrim them proceeds to ‘St. Patrick’s Cross,’ near the same church, and, kneeling, repeats there one Pater, one Ave, and Creed.

Next he goes to ‘St. Brigid’s Cross,’ where, kneeling, he recites three Paters, three Aves, and one Creed.

Then, standing with his back to the Cross, and with outstretched arms, he thrice renounces the devil, the world, and the flesh.

He then makes seven circuits of St. Patrick’s Church, repeating in each circuit one decade of the Rosary, and adding a Creed to the last decade.

He next proceeds to the penitential cell, or ‘bed,’ nearest to St. Mary’s Church, called St. Brigid’s Bed, and says three Paters, three Aves, and one Creed, whilst thrice making the circuit of this Bed on the outside. The same prayers are repeated while kneeling outside the entrance of the Bed, the same repeated while making three circuits of it on the inside; and the same prayers are repeated while kneeling at the Cross inside the Bed.

The same penitential exercises are performed successively at St. Brendan’s Bed, St. Catherine’s and St. Columba’s.

Around the large penitential Bed six circuits are then made on the outside, while repeating nine Paters, nine Aves, and one Creed. The Pilgrim then kneels at the first entrance of this Bed, and recites three Paters, three Aves, and one Creed. He next repeats three Paters, three Aves, and one Creed, while making the inside circuit of it: and again three Paters, three Aves, and a Creed, kneeling in the centre. He now proceeds to the second entrance of this Bed (which entrance is the one nearer to St. Patrick’s Church), and kneeling, recites three Paters, three Aves, and one Creed. The same prayers are recited whilst making the inner circuit of it; and the same, kneeling in the centre.

The Pilgrim now goes to the water’s edge, where five Paters, five Aves, and one Creed are repeated, standing, and the same prayers, kneeling.

After this he returns to St. Patrick’s Cross, from which he had first set out; and here says, on his knees, one Pater, one Ave, and one Creed.

He then enters St. Patrick’s Church, where the station is concluded by saying five Paters, five Aves, and a Creed for the Pope’s intention.

Three stations with the foregoing prayers are performed each day, each station being usually followed by five decades of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin.

The Pilgrim enters ‘Prison’ on the evening of the first day, and there makes the stations for the second day by reciting the prayers of each station as already given.

On the second day of the pilgrimage each one goes to Confession.

In addition to the foregoing exercises the Pilgrim assists each day at Morning Prayer, Mass, Meditation, Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, Evening Prayer, Sermon, and Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.

Any information regarding the fast, etc., may be easily obtained on the Island.

The station opens each year on the 1st of June, and closes on the Festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the 15th August.

There is a large ferry boat which can contain some sixty pilgrims and makes the passage from the main to the island in ten or twelve minutes. The charges are only a few pence.

Pilgrims are strictly interdicted the use of intoxicating drinks upon the island, or within three miles of it, or anywhere during the three days of the Station. They are also forbidden to carry off memorials of any kind, even water from the lake, lest they might give rise to superstitious practices at home.

The fast consists of one meal of meagre food each day, except there is need for some relaxation, which is readily granted by the Prior, who is always in residence during station time. All persons on the island are subject to the Prior, who is himself responsible to the Bishop for the due observance of all rules and regulations made for the proper conduct of the pilgrimage.

One thing is certain: this pilgrimage has done much during the most disastrous centuries of our history to keep alive in the hearts of the people the spirit of our holy faith and its characteristic practices. Our enemies themselves attest ‘how much the superstitions of popery are greatly upheld by the pretended sanctity of that place called St. Patrick’s Purgatory, in the County Donegal.’ In the midst of a district peopled by the bigoted, transplanted Puritans, the plundered and persecuted pilgrims found a shrine where the poor friars taught them the lesson of patient endurance at the foot of the Cross, and poured into their breaking hearts the cordial of spiritual strength and vitality. And every priest in the neighbouring counties knows well from experience what lasting fruits of penance are to this day produced by a pilgrimage to the holy island. It is, in truth, a sacred spot, that barren rock, rising from dark waters, and surrounded by bleak and frowning hills. The rough stone is worn smooth by the bare knees of the generations of penitents who prayed and fasted there. Many a mile they travelled, poor, toil-worn, and foot-sore, to reach that lonely island. Many a bitter tear of penance was mingled with the waters of the lake. Many a weary vigil they passed in that ‘prison’ chapel or on those ‘beds’ of stone. Ay, and many a darkened soul got light, many a sinful, sorrow-laden heart found there abiding consolation. These thoughts thronged our mind as we left the shore sacred to solitude and penance; and the poet’s prayer rose unbidden to our lips:—

God of this Irish isle,

Blessed and old,

Bright in the morning smile

Is the lake’s fold;

Here where thy saints have trod,

Here where they prayed,

Hear me! O saving God!

May I be saved.






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