Croagh Patrick Mountain is situated in Co Mayo, Ireland. It attracts a million people every year. Thirty thousand of those visitors are pilgrims who arrive on the last Sunday in July, known as ‘Reek Sunday’.
The pilgrim tradition to Croagh Patrick goes back more than five thousand years from the Stone Age to the present day. Hill climbers, historians, archaeologists and nature lovers, all ascend the popular mountain.
Little did I know that soon I would be one of those visitors.
I had booked a flight to Ireland to attend a Christian conference in Cork. Whilst at that conference I preached a series of sermons at the morning prayer meetings. The series was based on several mountains whose names are recorded in the Bible. Therefore I chose ‘meeting God at the summit’ as my theme. It was based on God’s request to Moses,
‘come up to me on the mountain and stay here and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and the commandments’ Exodus 24:12
I focused my sermons on six Bible Mountains.
‘MOUNT MIZAH’ the place of small beginnings
‘MOUNT MORIAH’ the place of testing
‘MOUNT LEBANON’ the quest for spiritual maturity
‘CALEB’S MOUNTAIN’ possessing our possessions
‘MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION’ the place of revelation
‘MOUNT OF PRAYER’ talking to God.
In addition to this my host Pastor Danny had arranged for me to preach at his church in Castle Bar. He also arranged for me to visit Croagh Patrick mountain. The day was overcast but pleasant. Danny and I made our way up the mountain with a steady walk. On route we encountered a noisy praying gentleman.
‘HAIL-MARY- FULL OF GRACE. THE LORD IS WITH THEE. BLESSED ART THOU AMONGST WOMEN, AND BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB, JESUS. HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY FOR US SINNERS, NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH, AMEN’ he chanted.
The pilgrim hurridly walked around in circles repeating his chant at the second-prayer station on the mount. I was inquisitive about his Catholic religion.
‘How many prayers do you pray?’ I asked.
‘Sorry sir. I’m in a hurry. I’ll talk to you when I return from the top’ said the gentleman.
‘Sure’ I replied thinking I didn’t want to interrupt his devotions’. The pilgrim may have travelled from afar and his time was precious.
‘Enjoy your prayers and may they all be answered by God’ I said as he was going upwards to the summit.
‘Thank you’ said the pilgrim as he ascended.
I remained at the second prayer station with Danny. He was a former Orangeman belonging to a Protestant fraternal institution which was founded in 1796, known as the Orange Order. Before moving to Souther Ireland, Danny joined the Orange Walk years previously. This was a series of parades held between April and August. The parades have sometimes become flash points for sectarian violence. But Danny’s walk to Croagh Patrick Mountain was peaceful with an evangelical purpose. We were there to share the gospel of Christ with any pilgrims who were interested in what we had to say.
‘Is it okay if we have a chat?’ said Danny speaking to a pilgrim.
‘I only talk to priests. Are you a priest?’ the pilgrim asked.
‘No, I’m not a priest but I am a Pastor’.
‘Are you a clergyman employed by the church?’
‘Yes I am’ said Danny ‘I lead a church in Castle Bar, County Mayo’.
‘Then I will talk to you’ said the pilgrim. ‘What do you want to know?’
‘Have you visited Croagh Patrick before?’
‘Yes and prior to my arrival I fasted for forty days’. The pilgrim wasn’t boasting about his spiritual eminence he was answering Danny’s question.
‘Forty days without food? That’s what I call a religious commitment’ said Danny.
‘In times past I’ve walked fifteen miles along a coastline barefoot’ said the pilgrim.
‘Why do you go to all that trouble?’ asked Danny.
‘Because I’m searching’ said the pilgrim as he genuflected in the direction of Croagh Patrick’s summit’s chapel.
‘Are you searching for anything special?’ I asked.
‘Jesus gave us a commandment didn’t he? Seek and you will find’ said the pilgrim.
‘But what are you looking for and what do you hope to find?’ asked Danny. ‘God of course’ said the pilgrim.
‘Have you found him yet?’ said Danny.
‘No, that’s why I’ve come to Croagh Patrick mountain I’m still searching’ the pilgrim explained. Danny prayed with the pilgrim, ‘I feel so much better after talking to you’ said the pilgrim. ‘I feel as though I’ve had an encounter with God’
Perhaps like that pilgrim you too are still searching. Is there a pilgrim spirit inside of you? Not necessarily a religious temperament like the man we encountered on the mountain. You may never visit Croagh Patrick. You might not go to Mecca or journey to the river Ganges or attend a sacred shrine.
Perhaps your search for meaning involves a visit to Glastonbury rock festival? Or is it a trip to Stone Henge? After all everyone’s looking for something. Lonely people seek trusted companions. Broken hearts long for healing. Terminally ill patients are in a quest for a wonder drug. NASA spends billions of pounds exploring the universe. Man is in pursuit of the meaning of life. Have you found what you’re looking for? If not why not consider Jesus Christ?
Former tennis player Stan Smith talks about how he found the answer to his own spiritual quest.
‘I began meeting with a group of athlete’s at the University of Southern California. These were different guys than I had known before. They told me about a person who was very new and exciting to me. The person was Jesus Christ. Toward the end of that year, I put my life into his hands, I asked Him to give my life more meaning and he helped me find myself and he gave me self-confidence’.
I’m sure you can have positive experiences like Stan Smith without giving your life to Christ.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins. You can be an atheist who is happy, moral, balanced and intellectually fulfilled.
Nevertheless an atheist can never love like a Christian loves. It’s impossible for atheists to love in the same way as Christians. The greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God with all your heart. This special love is beyond atheists. They cannot express affection for God. In this sense atheists are spiritual virgins. They cannot tell us what loving God is like because they’ve never loved God. They don’t know the benefits which come with loving God. Neither do they know the sacrifice which loving God entails. Neither, can an atheist know the joy of sins forgiven. Of corse atheists can know the forgiveness of humans but so long as they disbelieve they cannot know the forgiveness of God.
The fact is, society is not based on logic and reason alone. It’s also based on our experiences. And a man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.
I pray that you will find what you’re looking for. But more importantly I hope what you’re looking for, will find you. God is seeking people who will worship Him in spirit and truth. He’s waiting for you to come to Him by faith. Learn more about becoming a Christian. https://wp.me/P9kkri-2d