A Catholic traveler’s guide to Ireland

The next World Meeting of Families is scheduled for Ireland in August 2018. Some might think 14 months is too early to begin planning what a trip there might look like, but Diana von Glahn’s “Faithful Traveler Bucket List” (In Focus, online June 25) has inspired me to think ahead.

Though I am a good part Irish, I’ve only been to the Emerald Isle once and only for a few days, with the quick trip including a whirlwind tour of Dublin and a train ride down to the beautiful southern city of Kinsale (I did make a detour to kiss the Blarney Stone). Should I ever be fortunate enough to go back, I have a couple of Catholic pilgrimage sites I’d like to add to my Irish bucket list.

First, of course, has to be the Our Lady of Knock Shrine, where 15 people are believed to have witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a lamb and a cross on an altar on the wall of the local church in 1879. These witnesses, who ranged in age from 5 to 74 years of age, prayed the Rosary in the rain for two hours, watching the apparitions on the altar that remained untouched by rain.

Today in Knock, there is a beautiful shrine, which includes a basilica, museum, gardens and, of course, the apparition chapel. For those unable to make the trip, or those who want to support the shrine, there’s a place on the website (knockshrine.ie) that allows you to “light a candle” by leaving a prayer request and by contributing a monetary donation. Ideally, this would be a two- or three-day stop, with time for prayer, meditation, wandering the gardens and general soaking in of the atmosphere.

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Another intriguing Catholic pilgrimage site can be found in Northern Ireland — the St. Patrick’s Trail. This 92-mile driving route joins together 15 historical and ecclesiastical sites of interest in Counties Armagh and Down. These include St. Patrick Cathedral in Armagh, which is built on the site where St. Patrick established his first stone church in A.D. 445, and the nearby Roman Catholic cathedral in Armagh, which opened in 1904. Also on the trail is the Down Cathedral, which includes the grave of St. Patrick, and several other abbeys, churches, museums and even a castle.

Finally, about 80 miles West of Dublin, lies the monastery of Clonmacnoise, founded in 546. The monastery, which once was a significant center for religion, trade, learning and craftsmanship, is now in ruins. But the ruins include a cathedral, seven churches dating from the 10th to 13th centuries, two towers and three high crosses. It also includes a large selection of early Christian gravestones. Those who have visited say it is a beautiful and serene part of the country and well worth the detour from the bigger cities.

Now that I’ve shared with you my own inspirations, I invite you to share with me! What’s on your Catholic pilgrimage bucket list? Write to feedback@osv.com or comment on our website or social media pages.