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A cold slap in the face about prayer...

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

'Doing' Lough Derg was a rite of passage in our house. The centuries old pilgrimage - sometimes referred to as the 'ironman of pilgrimages' involves going to the island on Lough Derg, praying through the night, going barefoot, and fasting for 3 days. My Dad had done it over 40 times.

During his holidays when he was a teenager, he learnt to wolf down breakfast. To be ‘fasting’ was risky. His mother thought it was a 'sin' to send any car to Lough Derg off with an empty seat.

When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in the mid 1990s, for the second time, my brother and I headed there.

I felt if Dad was going to die this time, I wanted it to be quick. He and my mother had been through enough already. I said as much to the priest. He gently suggested I pray not for that, but for ‘God’s will to be done’.

The stations that pilgrims are expected to make, included several laps around a large basilica. I set off praying to God ‘to do his will’. A gust of rain slapped my face as I turned the first corner. I thought ‘This is mad, God. Why am I doing all of this, to ask You to do what You want’.

I don’t know how I prayed for the rest of that pilgrimage. I do know in the 25 years since, I have prayedquite differently.And I love the idea, I came across a few years later, that God’s will for us, is the same as the deepest desires of our own hearts.

This was one of a series of reflections on theme of ‘Re- thinking God’ featured on RTE Radio 1 Living Word slot in Dec 2020.

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