A Solo Pilgrim Journey Begins

I’m at YVR and about to catch the first flight of this pilgrimage….heading to three sacred sites of Celtic history; Lindisfarne, Iona and Kildare (land of St. Brigid).  Why am I going?  What is calling to me?  Why am I doing this alone?  How did this day begin…so long ago?

In some ways, I have tumbled into this day…with a few pushes and shoves from others.  I think I would have been too scared to jump.  But last year, on my 50th birthday (which was a crazy surprise bash put on by my two incredible daughters and many close friends), I received the gift of funds – for a ticket.  “Where Cathy, would you go if you could?”  And I knew in my heart there was only one answer.  I wanted to go to the centres of Celtic stories, the land of Celtic stone, the holy land of a spirituality that has impacted my life these past 20 years.

For it was 20 years ago, this very summer that my world fell apart…and I dropped down….perhaps like Alice in Wonderland.  Sometimes disasters are really just a drop into another world we would have have chosen.  It seems strange, horrible and frightening at first, but ultimately, it leads you to your deepest truth and freedom.  I experienced my deepest personal crisis that summer which ended up blowing bombs in most of my paradigms of faith and religion.  Everything fell apart….but led me to everything I am today.  In the three years that followed that summer, I was introduced to Spiritual Direction, walking the labyrinth, Silent retreats….and a Celtic Christian understanding of faith that opened my heart and mind.  At the heart of this is the understanding that we are made with ‘original blessing’ instead of ‘original sin’.  Growing up as a pastor’s daughter in the 60’s, the understanding that we were all ‘born in sin’ had a profound psychological impact on myself, my life choices and all of my relationships.  To grasp that the Celts (and Orthodox too for that matter) had never adopted that understanding (which showed up at about 1000AD), but had viewed all humanity as blessed was like a liberation of the heart!

What if we knew that at the CORE of our humanity was something good?  Something beautiful?  What if I could look at every human being and say – you are, at the core of you…..infinitely beautiful? wow.  This began to change my life.

I also got riveted by the prayers of St. Patrick, binding himself to Love, binding himself to the wildness of nature (like mountains, rivers and flame) as the understanding was that all creation is the ‘first word’ of God.  I began to see all of creation through new eyes…as something I could learn and receive from.

And so the ancient Celtic way of understanding the Divine expanded and broadened me….and has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for 20 years.  The writings of J.Philip Newell especially (former Rector of Iona) have been at the core of many of the Soul Care Retreats I have facilitated and have also inspired my song-writing.

But with all that being said, I really don’t know WHY I’m going. Except that I must.  In some ways, some strange ways, I feel I am going home.  Home to these stones that carry memory.  Home to a landscape that is old and ancient and holds memories of times past.  And also to perhaps build my own stone altar…a monument of remembering these 20 years and all the graces I have known on this journey of my heart.  It was 20 years ago this summer that I began to pray the prayers of St. Patrick. I truly believe they have helped form the woman I am this day…and so it is a time of reflecting, remembering and being grateful.

John O’Donohue, another favourite Celtic author/poet writes a lot about entering the ‘thresholds’ of ones life.  The places where we are entering transition.  I feel I am on a place of threshold; with my body (menopause is saying a big hello! haha), with my vocation (Soul Care work is flourishing in new and vibrant ways) and in other parts of my life as well.  So, this is a time of shedding the past, letting go of what I have been….and allowing myself to leap towards the unknown.

This morning, I awoke to this quote on this timely day:  “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”  Anais Nin

And so, once again, I say, ‘yes’.   Yes to another ‘moment’ in my life….and whatever it holds for me.  Yes, to adventure and journey and threshold and story.

And so it begins…….

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