Mar 17 – St Patrick (5th century) – Loch na Chara, The Holy Wells of Ireland


-Holy Wells of Ireland triptych by Anja Renkes 2020, author and artist, please click on the image for greater detail


-leftmost and then rightmost panels of Holy Wells of Ireland triptych, both 24 x 36 inches, by Anja Renkes 2020, please click on the images for greater detail

“This lake is known as Loch na Chara. It is believed to be the place where the devil was drowned by St. Patrick. This remarkable saint is believed to have battled and conquered many evil spirits as he introduced Christianity to Ireland. Standing with your back to the holy wells and pilgrimage site, this lake stands before you on the other end of the mouth of the pass.

St. Patrick’s holy well, at the crest of this mountain pass called Mám Éan, has been a Catholic pilgrimage destination for many years. Other kinds of rituals that are not specifically Catholic or Christian, which may include elements of pre-Christian religions, also continue at some holy wells today.

The objective persistence of many cultic or religious practices at these places reveals a human longing for communion and healing. This longing is significant, and I hope that my work, as it explores the evidence of this longing at holy wells, might offer a response by pointing to the life-giving well of Jesus’ mercy and love in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Catholic popular piety requires that pilgrims have received suitable catechesis to understand how to participate, so that it may nourish them spiritually and assist in developing a relationship with God. My work seeks not to qualify all the practices that occur at holy wells, but to understand and recognize the longing revealed therein.

Upon further contemplation, this longing is revealed in myriad ways throughout the world today. The persistence of religious practice at holy wells provides an example that reaches back through times gone by; however, modern phenomena like night clubs and even social media all reveal this deep, innate desire for communion…

Compline (Night Prayer, the last prayers of the day in the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours) of the Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey, includes:

When darkness everywhere draws near
Creations sign to close the day,
Teach us to calm our inner fear
That we may watch with you and pray.

Let not anxieties undo
Our trust that you are always there
Increase our fragile hope in you
Who hold us ever in your care.

As shadows overwhelm the skies
Shine in our hearts, eternal light.
Stay with us, Lord, as daylight dies;
Let angels guard us through the night.

To you be glory, God of rest,
To you be glory, God the Son,
To you be glory, Spirit blest,
The One in Three and Three in One. Amen.

Slàinte Mhath, Love,
Matthew

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