Today ventured out of the city area of Cork towards the Rock of Cashel, a place I had been looking forward to visiting as part of the pilgrimage. The weather was…well, it was interesting as you will discover, but we started out with a light drizzle. Someone mentioned it was the archetypal Irish weather, but I wouldn’t know about that.
Our drive towards Cashel took us through some more beautiful Irish countryside, made all the more glorious because of the light rain. At least that’s my impression, and I’m sticking to it. The trip by coach was only a little over the hour and so we arrived in good time for our tour of the Rock.
I have to confess to feeling a little cold and wind-blown up there on the Rock, but we were guided around the buildings on the top of the Rock by the delightful Aisling who went above and beyond the call of duty given the climate. But the weather did not detract from the view from ‘up there’, nor the beauty of the building ruins that sit atop the Rock. In one sense, the weather contributed to a fuller appreciation of the significance of the Rock, the buildings that sit atop the Rock, and the history that is associated with this particular site.
The Rock and the buildings – and the view – provided some wonderful opportunities for photography, and there will be a posting on that, along with other photos taken during the pilgrimage in the fullness of time, once I’ve had the opportunity to get back to Australia, and to prepare them for posting. You will have to be patient.
I mentioned the weather was interesting before, and the true interest would be discovered after lunch when the light rain that had persisted to that point dissipated and blue skies reigned overhead. Only in Ireland! (Although I’ve heard rumours that Melbourne occasionally has similar experiences!)
Departing Cashel, we headed back in the general direction of Cork, though we deviated from the direct route to visit the township of Ballygriffin, and specifically the birthplace of Nano Nagle, the foundress of the Presentation Sisters. The site is significant as we follow the footsteps of Catherine McAuley because it was with the Presentation Sisters – at their convent at Georges Hill, Dublin – that Catherine undertook her novitiate along with her two companions at the beginning of the Sisters of Mercy.
Visiting the birthplace of Nano Nagle allowed a connection to be closed in one sense. The story of Catherine McAuley is intimately entwined with that of Nano Nagle, and to not visit Nano’s birthplace would be as wrong as not visiting the former convent at Georges Hill; it would simply not make sense. Hearing the story of Nano Nagle and her vision for what would become her Presentation Sisters, is as much a part of the story of Mercy as Catherine’s own story is, and it was important for us to hear it.
The site and its resident community are now dedicated to what might be described as seeking environmental justice and integrity, being located on an organic farm (operated under lease), and being a place where connecting with the environment is profoundly easy. While our visit was necessarily a short one, there was a clear and powerful connection to creation palpably present there.
Returning to Cork we were left to our own devices for dinner, so Mum and I ventured down the hill to dine. The walk down the hill was most enjoyable, as was the walk back up (it being a gentle slope most of the way) until the last 100 metres where the inclined increased dramatically. Despite all that, it was early to bed in preparation for our departure tomorrow to places north.