|From the hills overlooking Dublin|
Before going back to the U.S., I took the opportunity to spend a few days in Ireland. I was mostly in Dublin, but went up with another friar to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock and to our Dominican Priory (or what the locals there call our "Friary") in Sligo. It is impressive to realize how long our Dominicans have been in Ireland, and how they continued to survive despite very severe persecution. For example, the Dominicans have been in Sligo since the 13th century. But for much of thee last several centuries, religious life was forbidden by the English. This is the reason that San Clemente fell to the hands of the Irish, so that they might have a place to educate their friars, as it would have been illegal in Ireland. There were even professional "Priest Hunters" in Ireland until the 18th century, and they were given a higher reward for hunting down and catching a friar.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Knock commemorates the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Joseph outside a small country parish near Sligo. Our Lady said nothing but merely pointed to another image, that of the Lamb on the Altar, seen as a symbol of the Eucharist. The Shrine remains an important place of pilgrimage for the Irish and was visited by Pope John Paul II on one of his first trips, in 1979.
I also visited Glendalogh, the ruins of an ancient monastic settlement and the home of St. Kevin. It gives a glimpse of the unique Christian life that flourished in Ireland. Regrettably, this life was severely threatened by the Vikings, who continually raided the Monastic communities. And of course, these same peoples eventually invaded England as the Normans, whose brutal tyranny marked religious life in Ireland for 800 years.
The pictures from my trips to Ireland are below.