It never moves yet it is always moving. It doesn’t do anything yet it is always being. Imposing yet it never imposes itself. Unchangeable but always changing.
It stirs us deeply when we see it. It touches us every time. Croagh Patrick. The Reek. Home. Heart. Hearth.
Holy and reverential without being pious it brings out the pilgrim in us. It has a draw, something innate. To see it as you drive over Sheeaune is a joy beyond words. It is like a homing device that makes you feel earthed. The seas bow to the gravitational pull of the moon as we do to the Reek.
Climbing, falling, searching but always moving onwards and upwards. That is our journey with the Reek. It speaks to the core of our being. Its shadow has spread over our heartland from time immemorial. Its pathway arms have held the gentle feet of tender souls since humanity first gazed in awe at its majesty.
It has drawn us in a deeper sense of being, embraced us in a bosom of assuredness and acceptance. Even when it is hidden by low cloud we know it’s still there. Such is our faith in the Reek.
While blessed by saints (St Patrick included) its holiness has been shaped by the humility of generations who have trod its sacred paths. The soul of the mountain is the endless stream of pilgrims dipping into their own mortality, seeking solace or giving thanks for themselves, family or friends.
Croagh Patrick is not a playground or leisure location. To many it is hallowed ground. It is not a place for competitive running, or mountain biking. To watch thousands of ‘competitors’ churn up its pilgrim paths is an affront to the spiritual history of the mountain.
The mountain was never meant to be a cash cow but that is what it is being reduced to. So many were abhorred at attempts to mine gold out of the mountain some years ago. What is happening today is another form of gold mining.
One could never imagine Mount Tabor in Israel or Mount Sinai or Mount Kailash being treated the way Croagh Patrick is. The big difference is the communal respect afforded in those countries, regardless of which religion deems the mountain holy.
Croagh Patrick was sacred before Christianity. There is no need now to desecrate it by any means or for whatever means. Generations of local farmers have been faithful keepers of the flame. They are often the forgotten people in any Reek debate.
Pilgrims could climb because the farmers accommodated them. The local farmers know that in grazing their sheep they also work on sanctified ground. They have always respected that history. It is now time for legislators to bring forward proper legal protection for such sites as Croagh Patrick. Being respectful costs nothing.
Recently, many people with great patience have come together with Mayo County Council to formulate a plan to restore the damaged pilgrim path. That plan has been submitted for formal planning approval. People are invited to make submissions or observations.
Submissions or observations may be made in writing to John McMyler, Senior Planner, Mayo County Council, Áras an Chontae, The Mall, Castlebar not later than 5pm on September 24, 2019. Plans and particulars of the proposed development are also available online www.mayococo.ie/planning, where electronic submissions may be made also not later than 5pm on September 24, 2019.
The work is described as: ‘Sustainable access works to include aggregate and stone pitched paths, path drainage consisting of culverts, cross drains and water bars, fencing for managing access during construction work together with habitat restoration of eroded areas.’
Too many will leave it to others to write to the council. Take the opportunity. Make your voice heard.