14 March 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Croagh Patrick
May the blessings of St. Patrick be upon you!

My good Irish Catholic branches come from Connacht, or the West of Ireland where they were banished in the time of Cromwell or so the legend goes. My mother's family was from Newport, just to the north of Croagh Patrick, on Clew Bay. There are many tales and family lore about how my family was chased from Ireland for being river pirates and for their connections to the legendary pirate queen, Grace O'Malley (I'm descended from some O'Malleys). I've visited the area a few times. Most recently, with my husband and 80 year-old aunt. We didn't make the pilgrimage up the mountain (thank goodness I had my aunt with us to provide a good excuse for not going!). To the south of Newport is the larger town of Westport, near the base of Croagh Patrick. This is where we stayed the night and where the blessings of the good St. Patrick and the luck of Irish found us...my son was conceived here, back in my ancestral homeland, 160 years after my great-great-grandfather left for America.

From Catholic Encyclopedia on Croagh Patrick: A mountain looking out on the Atlantic ocean from the southern shore of Clew Bay, in the County Mayo, and called "the Sinai of Ireland." In pagan times it was known as Cruachan Aigli. It rises in a perfect cone to a height of 2510 feet. The account given below is taken from sources that post-date the saint's death by three hundred years. There are, however, good reasons to believe that the traditions they embody are genuine, St. Patrick was careworn and fatigued when he came to this remote part of the country. He longed to retire for a while to refresh his soul in solitude, and for that purpose on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday in the year 441, he betook himself to the mountain top. Here he spent the days of Lent, chastising his body with fasts, pouring out his heart to God, and entreating Him with prolonged importunity and with tears that the Faith may not fail in the land of Erin.

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