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On Holy Mountain

On Holy Mountain

Tuesday 12th March 2019
Cate Macfarlane

Vast, immovable, haughty in her grandeur, the mountain drew us towards her. Soft and rough, grey and green, she revealed more of her great expanse as we climbed ever upwards. Reciting Brendan's Prayer, we remembered fellow pilgrims who had conquered different trails on the towering rock.

Mount Brandon, on the south-west coast, in Dingle, Co. Kerry, is the second highest mountain in Ireland, 953 metres high. In June 2004 I travelled as group leader with fellow pilgrims from Pilgrim Adventure.

The ruins of St Brendan's Oratory mark the summit of the mountain. The legend is that the navigator saint climbed the mountain with his seafaring monks to prepare them physically and spiritually for their journey to the promised land of the saints.

Mount Brandon connects the wild and the holy. At the summit we encountered a swirling, whispering breeze. Enthralled we gazed about us: neighbouring peaks softly rounded and covered in green; tracks in the distance; the sky near enough to touch. Rivulets of crystal clear water appeared and disappeared. Down in velvet green pastures, sheep stopped and stared. The shimmering sun visited us for a moment or two, then danced on her way. On the horizon was a vast, open sea and infinity, just as it had always been.

The rocks, jagged and smooth, purple and blue, held their secrets as we clambered among them. Our limbs ached, but we were refuelled from who knows where. We sang 'Do not be afraid' and we were not.

This was our third visit to Mt Brandon and the first led by Cate.