5th Year Retreat Report
(Photographs of the Retreat are in the Photos Section)
The 5th Year retreat took place on Tuesday 14th May. The Retreat was accompanied by Br. Colmán and Ms. Aungier. We left the school at 8:30 in the morning with the weather being overcast but thankfully not raining.
Our first stop of the day was only down the road to a graveyard called Teampall Clon Cuain. There, Br. Colmán filled us in on the history of the place, explaining about the church ruins and the terminology behind the name of the graveyard. Ms. Aungier also said prayers and we reflected on our own thoughts. In particular, we remembered Andrew Grey’s friend Donal Walsh, who sadly passed away.
From there we journeyed up North to Br. Colmán’s hometown of Gort. We visited the monastic settlement of St. Colman Mac Duagh just outside the town. In this settlement there was a round tower – which is the highest in Ireland – and with that there were ruined buildings of Churches, a refectory, chapter house and others. This place was of significance to two people in our group. Firstly Br. Colmán, as this was from where Colmán adopted his name. Saint Colman was the founder of this monastic settlement. And secondly to Cian O’Shaughnessy. The O’Shaughnessys are descended from this area and the family tomb still remains there to date.
After Br. Colmán turning down Donough and John’s suggestion of a pit-stop at the new Dominos Pizza in Gort we ventured deep into the karst landscape of North Clare – The Burren. We went to a place called Eagle’s Rock. The name comes from the fact that this spot was the place where the last remaining eagle in Ireland was shot. It was an area of religious significance in that there was a holy well there which people regularly visit and there were ruins of a small church. I think what people found most interesting about this place was St.Colman’s cave in which about 10 of us bunched into. There too was a bullán – which is a well in essence. Legend has it that after a mother passed on, her children were left starving. So a doe came along and yielded her milk into this bullán and hence saved the children from death. When we were trekking back to the bus, Colmán requested that we headed in silence in reflection of our own thoughts and what we were told thus far in the day. On the way back Vincent decided that he needed a bit more than reflection and lay down on the ground for a quick snooze.
The next stop was also in the Burren but this time we headed upwards. We trekked up a hill to where there was a cairn at the peak. While on top we soaked in the breathtaking views of Galway Bay and the landscape around us. After a quick but precarious descent through the Burren’s rocky landscape we headed to the Church of Carran, an old settlement in the North of Clare. Colmán filled us in on the history of the place. The church as Colmán described it was a small intimate church. Outside it were two burial tombs. They were shaped like a triangular pitched tent with the native Burren flagstone. In one of them, the bones still remained. You could see them and even touch them! To one side of the church there was an old field system in which the divisions were still visible due to its rock boundaries. To the other side was a well where we gathered round. Ms. Aungier and Br. Colmán once again led us in prayer and then Conor Arkins played a tune on his fiddle for us.
That concluded our day and we hurried back to the bus just before the rain could get us.