The strenuous hike up Croagh Patrick normally draws 25,000 pilgrims on the last Sunday in July.
After being cancelled last year, Ireland’s annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick will once again take place this summer, but with a different format. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the hike will take place from Wednesday to Saturday, throughout the month of July.
Annual pilgrimage normally draws 25,000
Normally, the pilgrimage is held on a single day, on the last Sunday of the month when more than 25,000 hikers ascend the mountain in honor of Saint Patrick. According to tradition, the saint spent forty days fasting and praying there in the year 441. The hike attracts non-Catholics as well as Catholics, and many of them ascend the rocky peak barefoot, in a penitential practice dating back to the Middle Ages.
Fr. Charlie McDonnell of Westport in announcing the news said they are “delighted” to offer the Reek Sunday pilgrimage this year, “acknowledging and giving thanks for the fact that we journey very much under the protective hand of God,” reported IrishCatholic.com.
“This year, due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, it would be impossible to facilitate the pilgrimage on one day only so I am arranging to greatly extend provision of the sacraments for pilgrims throughout the month of July,” Fr. McDonnell said.
“It is my dear hope that this unprecedented and adventurous undertaking will provide all those who wish to come to Ireland’s Holy Mountain as pilgrims to do so safely and in their own time.”
At 2,507 feet above sea level, Croagh Patrick is known as “Ireland’s most dangerous climb.” Outdoor Masses will be held at the summit, and limited to 200 people as dictated by current coronavirus restrictions.
Hiking priests needed
Fr. McDonnell appealed to priests from “all over the country” to become involved so as to make Reek 2021 a “truly national pilgrimage,” reported IrishCatholic.com.
“The extended plan this year will involve three times the number of priests than would normally be needed, so help is very much required throughout July,” he said.