by Dennis Hamid
After much preparation and anticipation, a group of 20 of us from T&T and one from St Lucia embarked on our pilgrimage to Ireland and Scotland. We touched down in Dublin on April 21 welcomed by an unusual, brilliant Caribbean sunshine with clear blue skies.
The landscape richly expressed the spirit of Eastertide with late spring budding off the trees and the multi-coloured array of annuals covering the landscape everywhere. These brought intense pleasure to the eyes as we marvelled at God’s creation.
There was an air of anxiety and heightened expectation as we heard that Fr Leo Donovan OP was awaiting us. Our spirits were lifted when he stepped out accompanied by Fr Urban Hudlin OP.
The presence of Rev Jesse Maingot OP and Fr Hudlin with Fr Leo symbolically represents the love affair that exists between Trinidad and Tobago and Ireland. Fr Leo, the gentle giant concelebrated Mass for us with that distinct, rich voice that reminded us of the great influence this servant of God had rendered in humility for 50 years in our blessed land. From the altar he gazed intently on us, carrying us in prayer with his father-like trusting assurance.
Despite his health issues Fr Leo journeyed with us, moving better than some of us. We benefitted from our one-to-one interaction where we reminisced on our spiritual journey with him and sought his prayerful counsel to deal with our present circumstance. Our journey with him to the various sites and the companionship we shared will forever be etched in our minds and hearts.
Our Lady of Knock
Our visit to the internationally renowned shrine of Our Lady of Knock was extraordinary. One cannot help but be fired despite the cold and rain, to the devotionally rich Catholic tradition deeply rooted in the ‘Irish bone’ and shared with all who were warmly welcomed.
There was a pervading spirit of devotion and love which took flesh in the ministries to the sick, the specially abled, family life and youth. Fr Matthew Martinez OP, who celebrated Mass for us in this place of grace-filled adoration, reminded us of our call to holiness wherever we are and to always remember to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
The silence of Mary accompanied by Sts Joseph and John reminded us of the need to listen, trust and hope in the Lord of our salvation.
At Glendalough we were submerged in the rich monastic tradition that goes back to the fifth century immortalised in the life and mission of St Kevin. Inherent in these ruins is a story of perseverance against many tribulations.
It is from this Celtic monastic experience, scholastic works blossomed, communities were formed and society was shaped for many centuries. The Celtic cross epitomises the unconditional, eternal love of God and his faithful saving presence which offers us hope despite our situation today.
Our visit to the Black Abbey reinforced spiritual wealth and resourcefulness. The Dominican order has a legacy of perseverance and revival against all odds. We have shared in this legacy, for many hundreds of Dominican priests have served in our parishes. The survival of the Black Abbey reminded us of God’s faithfulness and the sure hope that he knows us by name and that he will provide for us, the sheep of his flock.
We thank God for all our Dominican priests who continue to serve in our parishes and for our Trinidadian Dominican priests and brothers in formation in Ireland.
UK’s most beautiful country
Our journey through Scotland confirmed why it is acclaimed the most beautiful country in the United Kingdom. This phenomenal place can be seen as a fertile paradise for poetic expressions. We journeyed through rolling, lush, green, undulating pasture lands populated with sheep and cattle randomly interspersed with yellow fields of canola.
Walking through the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh provided a bird’s eye view of life as is and what was. The medieval streets and their functional structures showed a deep appreciation for the preservation of the rich Scottish heritage of which we were all beneficiaries in the pre-independence era.
There was much to experience in the visits to the castles and the breath-taking churches and cathedrals. These awe-inspiring edifices communicated a sense of eternity in a sphere where the temporal embraces the divine.
Last but not least was our journey through the Highlands. This region of majestic splendour: snow-capped mountains, clear running streams and divinely sculptured hills were a sharp contrast to the tranquillity of Loch Ness!
The pilgrimage was ten days well spent, a time enriched by the friendships formed. The varied experiences provided a vivid reminder of true spirituality. We are called to live life to the fullest embracing the world and all that is within, through seeing the glory of God praising and serving him faithfully.