The following articles are taken from my bilingual column in the Scottish Catholic Observer. The West Coast of Scotland is also an excellent destination for pilgrimages (please see this post for more info).
Secularism already a concern in 1882 in Barcelona
Spain is considered a Catholic country. But in many places the younger generation seem to have lapsed, which could suggest that Catholicism is on the decline. So it was refreshing to visit the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – a church which, once completed, will be the tallest in the world.
Work started in 1882 and from 1883 was directed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí. Despite being in construction for over 100 years it still isn’t finished. The church also has a very modern feeling about it and I found it truly inspirational, showing the world that the Catholic Church is young and alive. The on-going works didn’t spoil the experience at all.
Gaudí saw that nature didn’t have many straight lines, but that most shapes were indeed curved. So he thought a church which resembled that concept would honour God. It will have 18 towers when finished, and they will be dedicated to Jesus, Mary, the Evangelists and the Apostles. The tallest tower will be 558 feet.
Interestingly the Church of the Holy Family was started by Josep Maria Bocabella, who was a bookseller, at the time of industrialisation when growing secularism was a concern. At times it was thought it would never be completed. Work stopped during the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, and anarchists destroyed the original plans for the remainder of the works. Some have indeed criticised the continuation of the construction as being unauthentic.
In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church as a basilica. At this time it already had an organ and services could be held inside. The Sagrada Familia was funded exclusively by donations. In 2009 it was thought it would cost 18M Euros to complete. Millions of tourists have visited the church and it is hoped to be finished in the first third of this century.
A brave decision by the children of Fatima
Our Lady of Fatima is reported to have appeared to three shepherd’s children in a Portuguese village in 1917. On a recent visit I was surprised by the number of shops in the town: They must be in their hundreds. It is easy to oversee an exhibition of the story and indeed I was the only one visiting. The visitor is taken through installations representing different scenes and thus gets a very vivid example of what happened.
Our Lady asked the children whether they would like to be witnesses, but warned them that they would be suffering. She also promised to look after them though. They agreed, and I wondered how I would have answered at their age. When the children told the villagers they weren’t believed and were even sent to prison but 70000 people watched Our Lady’s last appearance and saw the sun spinning in the sky. The Church has since declared the appearances worthy of belief.
Another exhibition has now opened. In economically very difficult times, which Portugal is going through at the moment, this is certainly a brave decision. It is a multi-media and interactive installation. But millions visit Fatima every year especially on 13th May and 13th October – the days she appeared first and last – and in general prices in Portugal tend to be considerably lower than in Britain. There is a direct flight from Edinburgh to Lisbon and the bus journey to Fatima only takes 1½ hours.
Ecumenism alive at Taizé – a spiritual retreat
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Pilgrimmage to Assisi
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Taistealachd air Slìghe Naomh Chonain/
Pilgrimage on the St Conan’s Way
English version below
Ràinig mi Eilean Ì air an ochdamh là as dèidh dhomh coiseachd à Clachan an Diseirt no Dail Mhàilidh air Slìghe Naomh Chonain. Chan eil fada bhon a thòisich a’ choimhearsnachd Chaitligeach an sin ris an slìghe seo a shanasachd. Choisich mise i thairis air beagan mhìosan ge-tà. Dh’fhàg mi ann an cuideachd Chalum agus Rut bho Chraig Lodge san Damhair an uiridh. Bha a’ chiad phìos gu math furasta air seann rathad an airm gu ruige Sròn nam Mialchon.
Lean mi orm leam fhìn beagan làithean as dèidh sin còmhla ri Marsco, an cù agam. Tha rathad beag a’ dol suas gu sgeama hydro, ach as dèidh sin feumar cruinn feadha a leantainn thairis air a’ mhonadh dhan a’ bhealach far an do chruinnich Clann Mhic an t-Saoir aig creag mhòr chòmhnard aig aon àm. Is e Pàrlamaid Chlann an t-Saoir a theireadh iad ris. Tha am bealach aig 564m, ach is e an slìghe sìos air an taobh eile am pìos as duilghe. Thuit mise trì tursan, ach gu fortanach bha mi ceart gu leòr. Tha sealladh snog ann ge-tà thairis air Loch Èite.
Ràinig mi Inbhir Abha as dèidh ochd uairean a thìde is mi gu math sgìth, ach glè thoilichte. Bhithinn an còmhnaidh ag ùrnaigh na Conair-Mhoire fhad’s a bha mi a’ coiseachd. Thòisich daoine ag ràdh rium gun robh mi a’ coimhead nas fhallaine cuideachd. Ro na seo bha mi an còmhnaidh air a bhith beagan teagmhach an robh mi comasach air a leithid a rud a dhèanamh. Feumaidh gun robh na h-ùrnaighean a’ dèanamh diofar. Co-dhiù, rinn mi an ath-phìos gu ruige Taigh an Uillt an ceann uair a thìde air là eile.
Tha an rathad tro Ghleann Lònain furasta a choiseachd is gun mòran chàraichean air. Tha cha mhòr 20km an seo is mar sin bha mi sgìth gu leòr as dèidh dhomh an t-Òban a ruigsinn. Às an seo thathar a’ moladh a dhol air an aiseag gu ruige Creag an Iubhair ann am Muile. Sna seann làithean bhiodh daoine a’ gabhail slìghe eadar ealaichte is iad a’ giùlain cistean nan rìghrean a dh’Eilean Ì. Ach chan eil i sin cho furasta san là a th’ ann gun bàta a bhith agad.
Choisich mise air an rathad mhòr, an A849, gu ruige Peighinn a’ Ghàidheal (Peighinn a’ Ghabhail à-rèir a’ Bhrig Iain MacPhàrlain: àite far an cumadh iad crodh a bh’ air a ghoid). Rinn mi am pìos sin air dà là ann an sreath a’ chèile. Gabhaidh e dèanamh taobh a-staigh là, ach is e là fada a bhiodh ann. Mholainn do dhuine sam bith coiseachd taobh a-muigh an t-seasain leis gum faodadh cus chàraichean a bhith air an rathad as t-samhradh. Tha a’ bhileag a dh’fhoillsich Craig Lodge a’ toirt iomradh air seirbheis nam busaichean poblach a dh’fhaodadh lioft a thoirt dhuibh mura h-eil sibh airson am pìos air fad a dhèanamh ann an aon là. Chuirinn ris an sin gun do chuir mi mo chorrag a-mach agus cha robh e ro dhoirbh lioft fhaotainn.
B’ ann bho chionn ghoirid a chur mi crìoch air an t-slìghe mu dheireadh thall. Choisich mi a Bhun Easain air aon là agus air adhart gu ruige Fionnphort an àth là. Tha mi a’ faireachdainn gur e àite naomh a tha san Ros Mhuileach cho math ri Eilean Ì fhèin. Tha slìghe eile ann faisg air a’ chosta cuideachd, ach chan eil e sin cho furasta a choiseachd. Dh’fhaodte gur e pròiseact airson là eile a tha sin.
What a great experience for mind, body and soul to walk the St Conan’s Way from Dalmally to Iona. I was doubtful whether I would make it, but it was all a question of willpower and prayer. Over a few months a walked a total of 8 days. The most difficult part is from Stronmilchan to Inverawe. At first there is a track leading up to a hydro scheme, but then one has to follow wooden poles across the heather. Just before reaching the pass at 564m one passes the MacIntyre Parliament, a large, flat stone where the clan apparently used to meet once a year. The descent towards Loch Etive is challenging and I fell three times, but the view is stunning. It took me 8 hours to reach Inverawe and from there it is only a short stroll to Taynuilt.
The next 20km through Glen Lonan are pleasant and easy to walk on tarmac without much traffic. From Oban I took the ferry to Craignure, although this wasn’t the way the kings would have been taken to Iona. However it is the most convenient one. From there I did the remainder in four days, but it can be done in two. I timed it so I could get a public bus back to where the car was, but people are also good at giving lifts. There is another route along the cost, which is much harder to walk though. Maybe it is challenge for another time.