Warm sunshine and the attention of the media doubled the numbers climbing Croagh Patrick last Sunday. An astonishing 35/40,000 climbed the 2,510feet from the shores of Clew Bay to the boulder strewn summit. The televised Mass on the mountain top broadcast the beautiful singing of the choir sending the message that “Jesus Christ is Lord” around the world. In his homily the Archbishop, in a play on Christ’s words, expressed the view that faith may move mountains but prayed that “this holy mountain will move faith”. It seems that historically the mountain was not always holy. Prior to St Patrick, it appears to have been a place of pilgrimage for worshippers of local deities. The genius of St Patrick is seen in his relatively non-violent evangelisation of Ireland by his converting wells from pagan fertility rites to places of believers’ baptism. It is present again on the Reek, recounted in the legend, when he threw a silver bell down the side of the mountain, knocking the she-demon Corra from the sky, regaining the territory for the Gospel. The report of a journalist, interviewing pilgrims on their reasons for making the ascent, did not find much Gospel content nor did he find any seeking to accumulate merit from their bleeding feet. Of course, any value in self inflicted punishment is rendered void by Christ’s death on Mount Calvary. It is his blood, not ours, that paid for our sins. The receipt for this payment was given in his final triumphant cry “Tetelesti” indicating the payment had been made in full. The work has been done. Its faith in his work that liberates us. Going up the reek may be good for the constitution and for contemplation but pilgrims looking for freedom from the habits that wreck our lives need to come to Christ for the new life that he has promised. Further Reading – St John’s Gospel Chapter 3 verses 1 to 16.