America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – Sing a song of prayer to the Lord

I’m sitting out my Sunday service today but I will sing a song of prayer to the Lord.

The advice on attending your place of worship has swung back and forth like yon botafumeiro incense holder that almost took me out in Santiago.

With the Diocese of Rome, whose boss, the Pope the ma. I defer to, ordering the closing of churches and then their reopening.

While mosques, synagogues and temples are also reacting coronavirus by closing their doors to protect their flock.

Best consult your place of worship for latest advice.

Of course there has always been an exemption from Sunday worship in my church for those who are old or infirm, if you’re sick, or at risk.

While there is no compulsion on Protestants to attend church with the emphasis very much on an individual’s personal relationship with God.

Through the Good Book and prayer.

And much like Methodists, Baptists and Gospel choirs the best way to pray is to sing.

And to Our Lady

So here are a few songs from my travels to get you going:

Ave Maria (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XpYGgtrMTYs): Well they are Marian sites…

Lourdes https://www.lourdes-infotourisme.com and The Lourdes prayer, Fatima in Portugal Centro www.visitportugal.com.

And Secret Portugal Medjugorje What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know. And Marian Pilgrimages www.marian.ie.

Spiritual

Which is where the greats from Motown from Aretha to Whitney started out and how cruise ships https://www.celebritycruises.co.uk put on entertainment.

I’d missed the old gospel choir in Memphis after I had to get the early-morning connection back to Europe.

But we were greeted to Christmas songs in an antebellum house turned B&B (and Deep South B&Bs are actually country houses). Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com.

I did manage to get my fix though in Anaheim. See https://visitanaheim.org and www.visitcalifornia.com

And breaking news…

Word reaches us from Siena, Italy, where the locals have been singing to each other for moral support.

Down an empty street https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hDu_kLJ-5Mk.

The song: E mentre Siena Dorme, or While Siena Sleeps.

Italians have never been silenced and never will… http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and Small roads lead to Rome.

And remember everybody has a place in God’s choir.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Italy – Il Bel Paese, the beautiful country

They’ve thrived and survived the Caesars, volcanic eruptions, the Vandals and the Goths, Napoleon, the Nazis and Mussolini… and Italy WILL survive Coronavirus.

The Italians have been at the Travel Fair, IMM2020, in London, this week.

Out doing what they do best… putting on their best front to the world.

It isn’t time now to deliver blame for Italy being in lockdown.

Rather it is best to dig out our holiday snaps, put on those old Dean Martin records and maybe a Fellini film.

Maybe go to our favourite Italian restaurant where your restaurateur is your best friend and you get the best pasta and risotto al funghi and Chianti.

And guess who knows how to make pasta from scratch now… thanks to my pal Catherine Fulvio at her Balkynocken Coikery School https://ballyknocken.ie

With Topflight, the Italian specialists www.topflight.ie. Also visit http://www.italia.it/en/home.html

Because if Italy can’t bring us out to them at the moment let’s bring Italy out to us.

The Roman Empire

Of course what the Romans did for us was only to give us all in the Western World the building blocks of civilisation.

I saw much of that on my walk along the Via Francigena, the last 100kms from Viterbo in Lazio into Rome Small roads lead to Rome and www.FrancigenaWays.com.

Where every small town boasted an antiquity, a fresco.

It wasn’t built in a day and Italy and Italians won’t be destroyed in a day either.

FORZA ITALIA

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St Paddy’s Day crawls

You’ll see them, clad in their green cassocks enjoying the craic, with St Paddy’s vital accessories, his crook or crozier staff… and a pint of Guinness.

It’s the St Paddy’s Day procession only, in fairness, there is very little proceeding… unless it’s to the next pub.

St Paddy’s staff, or crook with cross on top, is a symbol of his high status but probably not the best walking aid.

It’ll turn your beer green

I’ll get onto walks around Ireland with IrelandWays www.IrelandWays.com but first a walk around the houses.

My Dear Old Dad, a doctor, and perhaps a sainted figure himself by now would always advise people use walking sticks.

I must say on my first Camino A pilgrim’s prayer and www.CaminoWays.com I thought differently of those clicking their sticks into the holds on the Ryanair www.ryanair.com flights.

My Way… the Camino

How wrong I was.

I could have done with a stick as I stumbled along the Via Francigena Small roads lead to Rome and www.FrancigenaWays.com.

On top of the world… well, Germany at least

I had one, hewn from wood, on my historic walk through Austrian and German history with Topflight for Schools… https://topflightforschools.ie

In fact two, three, four, five… they are left around the mountain by previous walkers.

Who, like me, forgetfully leave them behind as they take photos and selfies of the breathtaking scenery.

And I could have done with one on my toughest trek yet in the height and heat of a Tenerife autumn day…

I’ve got style and stile

On a storied climb up to Afur.., A walk through the ages… Tenerife and www.CanariaWays.com.

While walking through the Bohemian Switzerland section of the Czech Republic Hungry and Thursday – Czech please and www.czechtourism.com.

Czech me out in Bohemia

And on the actual Switzerland… it’s definitely worth a walk too https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/ and Swhisskey on the rocks.

So take your stick with you on your IrelandWays trek.

With particular reference to my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow, the Garden County.

Hike the Wicklow Way

Follow peaceful paths through ancient forests and open mountain trails to Glenmalure, Ireland’s longest glacier valley… and finish in Dublin.

Duration: Up to eight nights. Price: From €900pps.

And my best walking companion

The Kerry Camino

In olden times, Dingle was one of the departure points for ports for the north-western port of A Coruna.

From here set on foot for Santiago de Compostella

Duration: Up to four nights. Price: From €410pps.

*Book before March 31 to get a 10% discount off your trip.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – missing Mass

Nothing much got past my Dad… he had rows of the Western Catholic Calendar in his bookcase to check when I was missing Mass.

Which I did today… and I’m only hoping that he’s not telling The BIg Man although He sees everything anyway, a bit like my Dad.

I did get up for 10am Mass today, albeit I cut it a bit fine… the trouble was I got lost. Obviously.

I’m still getting used to my new town, North Berwick, near Edinburgh.

North Berwick RC church

And I can find it if I set out from my Outlaws where we were living when we first turfed up here a fortnight ago.

But not from my new demesne, near the North Berwick sign on the main road.

I also missed Mass last week in the Czech Republic.

But my Dear Old Mum who is still alive and kicking, going to Mass, and telling everyone what they’re doing wrong, says: ‘You don’t have to go when you’re on holiday.’

It’s just that I do… my mantra is go to where the locals pray and play.

Old Czech Protestant service

And so on my previous sortie into the Czech Republic www.czechtourism.com I stumbled upon the first Protestant Jan Hus… Hope springs eternal.

I caught up with the one we know better, Martin Luther, in Dresden Dresden’s renaissance.

While in Tobago I sought out a happy-clappy West Indian Mass… On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago and Give us this Day – Sunday School.

At the Blue Cross, Medjugorje

I’ve also been on pilgrimage.. to Lourdes The Lourdes prayer, Fatima Secret Portugal and Medjugorje What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know.

Where I went to Mass every day and wore out my Rosary beads.

While there was also the Camino A pilgrim’s prayer and the Via Francigena Small roads lead to Rome and Jordan The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Do I protest too much?

Bernadette and me in Lourdes

It’s not just Christian Masses though… I seek out Mosques in Istanbul Wham bam, thank you Hamam and Sarajevo.

And synagogues and Jewish history in the Czech Republic and Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam.

So, I’m ready for my penance… and, yes, I know the tariff off by heart by now. Three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys.

MEET YOU IN THE PEWS

Adventure, Countries, Deals, Europe, Pilgrimage

What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know

It’s 5.40pm in mid-October in Medjugorje and everyone and everything stops… for Our Lady, although check your times as I’m told it’s 6.40pm in the summer.

The fast-praying, gesticulating Italian priest (I’ll call him Fr Luigi) in his open-necked dog collar… it’s a balmy late afternoon.

Fr Leon, the wise-cracking, whip-cracking Chaplain to the English-speaking Community.

And the Irish Franciscan brother and pastor to the young, Brother Columba.

Who thankfully isn’t standing too close to the candles – he admits that he once burnt his navel-length beard at a procession.

Hurling posts anyone?

We are all marking the moment 38 years ago in 1981 when Our Lady appeared on a cloud to six children from the village.

She can’t be much of a fan of teatime television then or maybe she had Neighbours on record.

It was certainly a half-time break back in 1981 in the big Yugoslavian basketball game which helped draw the two boys out.

Ivan Visionary (our guide Daniella’s nomenclature for him) will join us later in the week at the Blue Cross where Mary first appeared.

My way: And I’m saying me some rosaries

Although when I say join us, he is two rows of heads in front in a circle of worshippers.

I had hoped to see him in the ecstatic trance of those childhood photos on the boards in the grounds of St James’s Church.

Or heard some speaking in tongues. I know I’m unlikely to see Our Lady or hear her but Ivan Visionary has been on speaking terms with the Mother of God for 40 years.

I’ve every chance of seeing her though, or at least feel her presence, around Medjugorje which has expanded a millionfold since 1981.

Our Lady is everywhere

From that two-towered hurling posts-looking church, some tobacco fields and vines, to what it is today, a Marian resort dedicated to the worship of Her and Him.

And as with everywhere, Commercialism.

Our Lady is there in every shop on every corner, as are her beloved rosaries, 

Where you can get your own name engraved on them. 

There are holy water bottles aplenty and any amount of religious paraphernalia including your own cassock.

Does it come in my size?

But Our Lady is also here in the minds, in the souls and the hearts of the pilgrims, of which I am one.

A mother and daughter in our 20-stong Marian Pilgrimages (www.marianpilgrimages.com) group when we visit in October ask expectedly if I smelt the roses, Mary’s flower, as I make my way back from 10am Mass.

Try as I may, and maybe that’s where I’m going wrong, I can’t raise her.

But I do see Her in the eyes of eager Eddie who buries his head into his brother’s chest at the Blue Cross.

Bustling Medjugorje now

And who shoots a smile towards me from his wheelchair by Our Lady’s statue at the 5.40pm remembrance.

A million flock to the Bosnia & Herzegovina village every year to feel the grace of Our Lady, to ask her to intercede on our behalfs to Our Lord.

And to climb up to the Blue Cross, Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain.

Many leave changed by their visit while many return year on year.

And there’s wine in them thar fields

Marie from our group is back for her 60th pilgrimage.

She is in with the bricks at Mileina, our boarding house for the week, where she embraces Ines’s daughter at the breakfast table, whom she has known since she was a baby.

Ines is the perfect mine host

Ines looks after us all like her very own babies with breakfasts to set us up in the morning, the best of which is the steaming porridge.

And for dinner where we settle down, after Grace Before Meals  obviously, for big plates of family food, hearty soups and meaty feasts, chicken, lamb chops, potatoes (we are Irish after all) and veg.

With jugs of her own house wine.

I swear that ‘permanent’ house guest Marie gets an extra portion!

Like Marie, Medjugorje drew Scottish pilgrims Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane-Barrow back time after time following that first visit.

Mary’s Meals

To set up a support system for the village during the Balkan Wars in the mid-Eighties.

And then a charity for disadvantaged people around the world, Mary’s Meals, which feeds 1,000,000 children around the world for a €15 donation which energises them to then go to school.

It feels infectious this Christianity in action.

Mother Elvira runs a rehab centre, Comunita Cenacolo, near the village while there is also an orphanage nearby.

We hear the testimony of Italian Twentysomething Andre, a dyslexic who suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder as a child and felt swamped in a family where his two brothers were super-achievers.

Can you hear my confession?

And whose life spiralled out of control, landing him on the street, in trouble with the law and twice overdosing.

Before Mother Elvira rescued him and is now setting him and others like him back on the right path.

Andre is now looking after maintenance in the house and serving the greater community, all of it underpinned by Christian observance.

Which is also the watchword for Medjugorje as a whole where your whole day is framed by Christian worship.

Mass in the morning followed by a talk in the hall (we heard the extraordinary story of a priest who was an ISIS captive).

A part of history: Franz Ferdinand and Sophia

Those walks in the hills with Stations of the Cross along the way, the 5.40pm pause, an International Mass and an Adoration of the Host.

Phew!

There are though respites from your religious observations around the village.

And a coach out of town to Sarajevo for just €16 return where you can visit the spot where Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and triggered the First World War.

Armie’s tale: He helped a Balkans survivor

And the Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide which chronicles the 1,425-day Siege of Sarajevo in the 1980s.

At the heart of this beautiful city on the River Miljacka in the apron of the Dinaric Alps is the Old Town, the centrepiece of which is the Bey Mosque.

Middle Eastern delights

Turkish shops, cafes and restaurants fan out, showpiecing authentic Bosnian food (I’d recommend the Bey’s chicken and vegetable soup, in the dainty adorned pots).

Bey’s Mosque: Everything’s looking up

Back in Medge, The Irish Centre serves up more familiar fare.

From home at under a tenner and Herzegovina beer (at just 5 B&H Marks or €2.50, they take both).

And you’ll find an old new friend there, Columba, in with a fellow Fransiscan Brother to watch the Ireland v New Zealand rugby match with us.

As well as mending your soul he can fix the TV too when it freezes.

And a jaunt up to where they held the 1984 Winter Olympics

And it’s always good to have your own Franciscan monk on hand to say a prayer for Ireland to turn over ‘those New Zealanders’.

Our Lady is obviously busy though somewhere else with someone more deserving (really).

Up by the Blue Cross, Apparition Hill or Cross Mountain.

Asking us to pray more rosaries!

I’ll pray for you

Do: The bus to Sarajevo costs €16 return (remember to bring your passport for money exchange).

Bey’s Mosque in the centre of Sarajevo and the Museum of Sarajevo for everything on the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Seven-night trips including flights from Dublin to Dubrovnik cost from approx. €585pp, departing May 15. For packages see www.marian.ie and www.medjugorje.org.

As published in the Irish Sun in 2020.

Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – the best bar nun

Pope John Paul II only blessed my Uncle Danny and Auntie Nora.

For rearing six children in south Co. Donegal, all of whom became monks or nuns.

Which, without any signposting, other than maybe me watching Call the Midlife…

I’ve decided to shine a light on our Brothers and Sisters.

I more than fulfilled my holy obligations last year with visits to the holy sites of Lourdes…

See The Lourdes prayer, https://en.lourdes-infotourisme.com and Medjugorje The faces of 2019 – Pilgrimages.

Penguins’ march

And I hope to see Oberammergau in action this year after sampling the preparations last year https://www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home.

I had always thought that there was a height requirement to be admitted into the Holy Orders… you needed to be under 5ft.

Slam dunk

Until I was told of a basketball-playing nun in Medjugorje https://www.medjugorje.org on my Marian Pilgrimages tour www.marian.ie.

and, no, she doesn’t run between the opposition’s legs.

Basketball, incidentally, plays a part in the Marian apparitions story…

Our Lady only interrupted the big game on TV that day with her message of world peace and rosaries.

I confess

Monks, of course are great fun too and I wish I’d appreciated the brown-robed, big-bearded ones who regularly came a-visiting.

Way of the world

So what if they’d never heard of Heavy Metal or Celtic and Rangers, they knew exactly what was going on in Africa and the Middle East.

And so to this little Italian Franciscan dude who would do hours and hours of confessionals in Balkan Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Or Sister Elvira whose hostel for drug dependents in the hills above the town.

It’s always good insurance to say a prayer with a monk or a nun.

An Our Father

And particularly when they are Maria dos Anjos, the niece of the Last Shepherd of Fatima.

And I’d love to share her secrets with you.

Only a bolt of lightning would strike me down.

See. www.visitportugal.com and Secret Portugal.

MEET YOU IN THE PEWS

Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage

Thirteen years an Irishman – Five holy holidays

Give us this day, your weekly Sunday sermon from your outgoing and going out Eucharistic Minister (no, really, I am).

And as part of my long farewell, though not quite the 40 days between Christ’s Resurrection and his Assumption.

I give you five holy holidays:

I’m James too

Saint James

Buen Camino, Camino passport stamps and the La Queimada (the Galicia Halloween festival complete with fiery alcohol cauldron.

Peregrinos, that’s pilgrims to you and me, blisters and blisteringly good pulpo (octopus) and Chianti.

And the red-cloaked clerics swinging the botafumiero, the ornate and heavy incense holder, at the Pilgrims’ Mass in St James’s Cathedral.

With www.caminoways.com and A pilgrim’s prayer.

Or Giacomo in Italian

Phew Italia

Stranded in a one-horse town at night and Rosso Rum has left la citta, a bus from nowhere, lost again ten minutes into my Via Francigena.

The 100km pilgrimage from Viterbo to Rome, via country paths with snarling dogs behind barbed wire fences.

The sight of the Tiber, getting your last stamp in St Peter’s Square. A day to walk round and round La Citta Eterna.

Visit www.francigenaways.com and Small roads lead to Rome.

The last secret of Fatima

I think she knows the words

A Cristiano Ronaldo beach towel on a stand among the Virgin Mary souvenirs outside the Little Shepherd’s home.

Praying with Maria dos Anjos, the niece of the last Little Shepherd in her porch.

An elderly woman crawling on her knees to the altar, and a drunken Scotsman crawling out of the bar after too much Madeira wine.

Visit www.visitportugal.com and Secret Portugal.

Lourdes have mercy

Bernie and me

Candles… in cartons for the night-time vigil, in the shops, giant ones at €60, and ones inscribed by everyone in the village in which they were carved.

The helpers wheeling the disabled, pilgrims quietly queuing in front of the baths.

St Bernadette hiding in the gardens around the model villages in Lourdes Castle and the interdit sign which a disobedient Scot will always ignore.

Visit https://en.lourdes-infotourisme.com and The Lourdes prayer.

The Medjugorje story

The Lady is waiting

A monk held captive by ISIS giving a talk to pilgrims.

A priest revealing how Our Lady revealed herself to him and listening to Ivan Visionary channeling the Virgin Mary at the Blue Cross.

Visiting Muslim Sarajevo, its beautiful Bey Mosque and its museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide https://sarajevo.travel/en/things-to-do/museum-of-crimes-against-humanity-and-genocide-1992-1995/923.

Visit https://marian.ie/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMInMu4zdWu5wIVWeDtCh19mA5OEAAYASAAEgIXzfD_BwE.

Tomorrow on my long goodbye, my favourite cities.

Adventure, Culture, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day: the day Jesus was baptised

You’d be glad of a cool down in the 30C heat of a Jordan May. but Jesus wasn’t complaining.

Today is designated the sacred day when we commemorate The Baptism of the Lord.

It is in truth a little cooler in Jordan than when I went, at 11C but I can’t imagine the Lord was shivering.

So for the day that’s in it let’s take a deeper look into baptisms.

The first question is: where exactly was Jesus baptised.

The Jordanians claimed that he was doused further inland at Al-Maghtas.

Here in ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ in what is modern-day Jordan.

The Israelis for their part believe that he was baptised on their banks.

And this is where the Russian Orthodox Christians believe there are healing waters and they go full immersion.

The Jordanians claim Jesus was baptised here

All of which I learned on my G Adventures trip to Jordan last year…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/culture/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/, http://www.visitjordan.com, http://www.gadventures.com.

While decide for yourself which you think it is…. or like me just soak it all up and maybe sneak some holy water… http://www.baptismsite.com

So for us Gentiles it’s worth reflecting that of course John, Jesus and all those who were being baptised were all Jews.

And that John though the most famous baptist would not have been the first.

Today at Mass

Ritual immersion had been part and parcel of Jewish culture, or mikvehs for some time.

Jews would ritually immerse themselves for spiritual purity before worshipping.

Washing is, of course, central to the daily and spiritual life of Muslims.

Water of Islam

As I have found out on my trips to Marrakech http://www.visitmarrakech.com and Morocco http://www.visitmorocco.com.

And more recently in Istanbul www.visitistanbul.com and Turkey www.goturkeytourism.com.

And Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina www.visitsarajevo.ba

The boys in the Blue Mosque

It is, of course, a primal act to wash as well as being hygienic.

And you can find it in Sikhism through Amrit Sanskar.

While in Hinduism they like to immerse statues of Durga and Ganesh during the final stages of the festivals Durga Puja and Ganesh Charturthi.

Water of death

And purification is as much part of death as it is a spiritual birth.

A ritual bath in pure water is performed for the dead in many religions including Judaism and Islam.

For more on this pilgrim’s progress… read https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/culture/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/ https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pilgrimage/camino-a-pilgrims-prayer/, https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/small-roads-lead-to-rome/ https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-lourdes-prayer-pyrenees/ and Fatima in https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal-classy-centro/

Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – Sunday School

Back in the day the kids of the parish would sit down cross-legged and listen to their Sunday School teacher – ME!

I’d surround myself with props related to the biblical story of the day.

And we’d sing from a playlist with set dances…

It’s Us Who Make Commuity, Ladybird, Do You Know Who Made You? and This Little Light of Mine come to mind.

Music is in the soul in the Deep South

I’m minded here to share with you that they play this song on a loop in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum http://www.mcrm.mdah.ms.gov.

Part of my American Trilogy which includes http://The Promised Land, http://The Story of the Blues and http://The King of Kings.

The reason why I’m raising Sunday Schools is twofold.

Firstly because the family behind me at Mass today (and many Sundays) spent the whole service running around after their hyperactive kids.

With another great Civil Rights leader Myrlie Evers in the Deep South

And secondly because, God willing, I’ll be attending a Sunday Service with a difference next weekend.

Before I get on to that it’s worth saying that not all kids are menaces.

Harriet’s story

And I was hugely impressed by the wee one who sat right through a high-powered film.

The excellent Harriet, the story of Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman.

Never forget. Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Sunday Schools were part and parcel of Sabbath worship back in Scotland but seems less of a thing here in Ireland.

But it makes sense, allowing parents to concentrate on the service.

And the kids are taken away and told biblical stories at their pace.

With all this in mind and with my experience at the sharp end I might just volunteer my services to Sunday School in Tobago http://www.visittobago.gov.tt.

Particularly as Tobago’s Sunday School has a twist.

Tobago’s Sunday School

It’s only a nightclub with a jumping steel band which gets the party started every Sunday night.

I’ll be returning to the Caribbean for the first time in a couple of years next weekend….

Here’s https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/rihanna-in-barbados/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/my-kiss-with-rihanna/.

Here’s what we know already about the island already. And I’m not kidding https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/11/tobago-ready-steady-goat/

Allellujah!