‘Wildness and Structure’

June 26, 2024 in Featured Podcasts, News

‘Wildness and Structure’ was just one of the many themes to emerge from the SpIRE (Spirituality Institute for Education and Research) lecture in the Arrupe Room, Milltown Park on Monday 24 June, at 5.30pm. The general title for the event was ‘Pilgrimage by Land or Sea: Portal to Spiritual Awakening and Eco Awareness.’

The keynote presenters were André Brouillette SJ, lecturer at Boston College, and author of The Pilgrim Paradigm: Faith in Motion. And Dónal Ó Céilleachair, award-winning filmmaker of The Camino Voyage, a documentary following the pilgrim journey of four men in a boat who rowed 2,500 km from Dublin to Santiago de Compostela. Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications chaired the event. Listen above to a recording of it.

In his opening remarks, Dónal Ó Céilleachair spoke of how he had just returned from a weekend summer school celebrating the work of John Moriarty, the Kerry-born theologian, philosopher, and poet. Although he had never met John in person, Dónal had made a documentary about his life and work, Dreamtime Revisited, and he played a clip from it » as his presentation drew substantially on Moriarty’s work.

Donal explained how John Moriarty was grounded in the ‘immramh’, the pilgrimage walk-abouts of Celtic mythology. The immramh was a type of mystical voyage to the ‘otherworld’, a journey of spiritual awakening, and the experience of immramh was key to the poet’s life and work.

Moriarty, he said, speaks of three dimensions of Ireland, symbolised by three queens, Ériu,( Eire- the official aspect of Irish life, commerce, industry, officialdom) Banba (the creative dimension), and Fódla (the ‘otherworld). These three dimensions (each bridged by Banba, creativity), need to be kept in balance. ‘Otherworld seeing’, which is a mythological not a rational perspective, needs to become our way of seeing, Moriarty believed, because it allows us to view this world (Eire and Banba) in a new and flourishing way. Pilgrimage or ‘immramh’ enables us to step out of our limited ways of seeing in order to connect with other ways of seeing.

Oscar-winning songwriter Glen Hansard was one of the crew in the Camino voyage and Dónal spoke of how he was chosen by the other crew members. When they interviewed him they saw he had ‘fiántas’ an Irish word whose nearest equivalent in English would be ‘wildness’. The wildness and the structured discipline that is needed to get a rowing boat from Ireland to Spain, was the secret of their success, according to Dónal. The sound of the oars splitting the sea was remarked on by those present when he shared a short clip from the Camino documentary »

André Brouillette also honoured the ‘celtic triptych’ in his talk, when he outlined his three key characteristics of pilgrimage – embodiment, vulnerability, and memory.

Pilgrims traverse varieties of pilgrim paths in an embodied way. Human beings are incarnate beings and pilgrimage is about incarnation. The walker or the rower moves into a sacred time and space different from that of everyday life. In doing so they have to allow themselves to become ‘vulnerable’- not a popular concept, he says, in today’s world where the virtues of strength, resistance, success, and perfection are largely extolled. But pilgrims get blisters, sore limbs, face hunger and heat, and the limitations of the human condition. In this space, they may need others, for company or support, and community is created.

Pilgrimage is also connected to memory as a wider story – a story of returning to roots, to tradition, but above all to the remembrance of a past that is alive in the present. This re-membering, says Andreé, can lead to an inner transformation for the pilgrim who then incarnates that transformation in the world to which they return.

After a lively conversation with those who had filled the Arrupe room, many of them seasoned pilgrims, Dónal played a short clip of his latest documentary which will premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh this July. It’s a profile of the Jesuit Robert Kennedy who is also a Zen Buddhist Roshi.

Turlough O’Donnell, chair of the Camino Society of Ireland, concluded proceedings by reflecting on the need for an interplay of wildness and structure in the Catholic Church. He also thanked all present, especially Michael O’Sullivan SJ and Bernadette Flannagan of SpIRe who, he said, had done all the structuring necessary to make the event so successful.

(Photo L/R Liz Murray, Turlough O’Donnell, Michael O’Sullivan SJ, Bernadette Flannagan, Dónal Ó Céilleachair, Pat Coyle, André Brouillette SJ)