Lough Derg, the pilgrimage site often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, is located on Station Island which is four miles north of the village of Pettigo, Co Donegal. On Saturday 4 June it was the venue for the launch of a new book on Lough Derg by Father Eamonn Conway, a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam.
A large crowd of pilgrims, who were on the island making the three day pilgrimage, gathered in the Davog Retreat House for the launch of the book which is published by the Irish Catholic newspaper.
Speaking at the launch, Bishop Liam MacDaid said, “This book is timely in bringing the story of Lough Derg up to date and it complements the many books already available to readers. Is it a joy to read. Professor Conway writes beautifully and intelligibly. What’s more he draws from the intimacy o his communing with a place he has come to know and love”.
Watch a short video here in which we learn about the Loug Derg meal and we hear from Father Eamonn Conway about the challenge of the three day pilgrimage.
Father Eamonn Conway, author of this new book on Lough Derg, has been assisting as a member of the pastoral team during the three day pilgrimage since 1984. Speaking at the launch of his new book he said, “It has been a privilege and an important source of renewal in my own faith to meet many wonderful pilgrims and to work with such a great team. The book is a small expression of my gratitude”.
Listen: Click here to listen to an interview with Father Eamonn Conway on why he chose Lough Derg as the subject for his latest book.
Watch: Click here to watch a short video of Father Eamonn Conway sharing some of the history of Lough Derg.
The Irish Catholic newspaper are the publishers of this new book and Michael Kelly, Managing Editor, was on the island for the launch. He said, “Lough Derg:Island of Quiet Miracles leads the reader to an understanding of the spirituality and tradition of this ancient but ever new place of pilgrimage and why so many people, young and old alike, continue to journey to this place apart. The book is a must read about a pilgrimage that has the potential to transform your life”.
Historical records date the practice of pilgrimage on Lough Derg to the 7th century. Legend also presents the cave on the island as the place where Saint Patrick had his vision of Purgatory. Saint Patrick is said to have left a disciple in the area and the foundation of one of the earliest monastic Christian settlements followed. The remnants of the monastic prayer cells remain central to the pilgrimage tradition.
Today, the Lough Derg Three Day Pilgrimage follows a pattern prayer from the Celtic monastic time and shows remarkable continuity with the earliest systematic account of the pilgrimage, which dates to the 1600s.
The three day pilgrimage season has opened on Lough Derg for 2016 and will run until 15 August. Pilgrims can begin their pilgrimage on any day up to and including 13 August. During the three day pilgrimage, pilgrims make ‘Stations’: they walk barefoot, kneel on the hallowed beds, fast, pray and keep vigil.
Watch: All pilgrims coming to Lough Derg arrive by boat. Click here to watch a short video of the short journey across to the island.
Watch: Click here to watch a short video of pilgrims kneeling at the Penitential Beds on Lough Derg.
On the opening evening of this year’s three day pilgrimage season, the Year of Mercy candle, blessed by Pope Francis, was lit for the first time on the island.
14,000 pilgrims visit Lough Derg every season from May – September and since the late 1800’s the number is estimated to be over two million. In addition to the three day pilgrimage there are opportunities to go to Lough Derg for a One Day Retreat, Themed Retreat Days and Quiet Days.
This year’s pilgrims will also have the opportunity to pass through the Holy Door of Mercy on the island which has been opened for the Jubilee Year of Mercy which Pope Francis has invited the universal Church to celebrate this year.
Watch: Click here to see part of the ceremony of the renewal of Baptismal Promises through the Door of Mercy on Lough Derg
Some 80% of pilgrims return to the island each year and a growing number of new younger people come to experience the sacred island.
For more on Lough Derg visit their website www.loughderg.org.