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All the Wonders

  • betharichardson

Turas Cholmcille

Yesterday we took a very special pilgrimage to ancient stones in the Glencolumkille village in County Donegal. 


The traditional name of the pilgrimage, Turas Cholmcille, means Columcille's Stations (in Gaelic). We were led by two women from the local community, Margaret and Maura, who are trying to revive the pilgrimage. What an honor to have this walk shared with us. 


It is thought that Columcille lived in this community and, finding standing stones from ancient times, had Christian symbols carved on them. Then developed the tradition of a pilgrimage to these sites in reverence and penitence. 


The whole pilgrimage would take six hours to complete (barefoot) as the pilgrims visited the fifteen stations. We visited eight stations in the three hours we journeyed. (I kept my hiking boots on.) 

I am still reflecting on the experience. But wanted to share this. 


The Cairn at Columcille's Well


Pick up three stones,

The leader said,

And we will carry them up

To the cairn at Columcille's Well.


I picked up three small stones

And began to walk up and up and up

Along the trail, beside the sheep.


We stopped to rest

And looked out

At the valley below us.

I imagined the cairn we were traveling to ...

A small, rounded pile of stones by the holy well.


When we walked around the curve in the mountain,

We found not a small rounded cairn,

But a mountain of stones.

How many pilgrims,

Each with three rocks,

Have made this climb?


Thousands and thousands of

Pilgrims have carried their stones

And left them there.


Thousands and thousands of

Pilgrims have walked three times

Around this cairn,

Setting down a stone each circuit.


Thousands and thousands of

Pilgrims have prayed here,

Have touched the holy water.


God of healing,

We lay before you these burdens,

These hopes, these sorrows.


St. Columcille,

You walked these paths and

Carried these stones.


Pray for us

That we might follow

The one who heals,

Who loves,

Who walks with us.


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