On The Feast of St. Columcille

Scene of mountains, hills, fields, and town covered in a sea of mist
(designed in Canva)
1. Aoibhinn dom bheith air cnoc oileáin
Ar barr carraige
Go bhféacha mé minic ar an fharraige ciúin.
Delightful to me to be on an island hill,
on the crest of a rock,
that I might often watch the quiet sea.
2. Go bhféacha mé na dtonnta troma
Os cionn an t-uisce geal mar canann siad
Ceol chig a n-Athair go síoraí.
That I might watch the heavy waves
above the bright water, as they chant
music to their Father everlastingly.
3. Go bhféacha mé dtrá mín geal-chiumhaiseach,
Ní caitheamh aimsire dorcha go gcloise mé glór
na néan iasachta, glór taitneamhach é.
That I might watch it’s smooth, bright-bordered shore,
no gloomy pastime, that I might hear the cry
of the strange birds, a pleasing sound.
4. Go gcloise mé crónán na dtonnta fada
in aghaidh na gcarraigeacha, go gcloise mé
glór an fharraige mar chaoineadh ar taobh uaigh.
That I might hear the murmur of the long waves
against the rocks, that I might hear
the sound of the sea, like mourning beside a grave.
5. Go bhféacha mé na b-ealtaí é go hiontach
Os cionn na farraige lán d’uisce, go bhféacha mé
a míolta mora laidre, an t-iontas is mó.
That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds
over the well-watered sea, that I might see
its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.
6. Go bhféacha mé a thrá’s tuile ina nimeacht
Go raibh mar ainm orm – sé rún a n-innsím–
“Séisean a chas a chúl ar Eirinn.”
That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course,
that my name should be–it is a secret that I tell–
“he who turned his back upon Ireland.”
Courtesy of Vivian and Jack Hennessey, IrishPage.com, April 2006.
Aistriúchán as Gaeilge le Seán Ó hAonghasa
Cuidiu ó Proinsias Osborne

I’ve been mulling over the perils of pilgrimage during this feast of St. Columcille. The founder of the abbey at Iona, Irish-born Columcille (aka Columba, Colum, Columbus, Combs, and Columkill) was well acquainted with making arduous journeys in response to God’s call. He was a self-imposed exile from Ireland, finding haven on the shores of what is now Scotland. Yet I can hear the regret in his voice in his final stanza: “He who turned his back upon Ireland…”

Pilgrimage was part of the Celtic Christian’s lifeblood in the early days. Whether imitating the movements of Abraham, being called to go into unknown country (peregrinatio)l, or imitating the footsteps of Christ on the way to cross, making pilgrimage was an essential part of the faithful Celtic life. Choosing to set aside the certainty of a destination and instead focusing on the journey, Columcille fled his own country and continued his work in a land new to him.

I’ve been there.

Forced to leave a beloved city because living there would mean ongoing pain and suffering. It would mean further damage to an already damaging situation. But it meant choosing the greater unknown. And it meant not returning for a good, long time.

Our society preaches at us to live our lives without regret. We embrace our decisions, however they play out, and accept all of our experiences wholeheartedly.

Except, Columcille experienced regret.

I’ve experienced regret.

Regret is a part of the our human condition.

I’ve experienced being weighted down by regrets. They are cumbersome, awkward, slippery, and clammy. Trying to live my life with such a heavy burden is like walking through cold, slick mud with tennis shoes — the shoes get mired down in a matter of steps, and suddenly I’m weighed down in cold sludge.

But trying to live my life without regrets at all is just as hard. I’m still mired in the muck, but that there’s really no mud at all. Believing I’m actually walking forward, I can’t quite puzzle together why I’m sinking downwards faster while the scenery around me doesn’t change a bit. I’m in the same space, only this time with my companion Denial.

Unless I recognise my regret as real and learn to manage myself in its presence, I won’t move anywhere except down. Regrets will only sink me further into woundedness, and keep me from experiencing all life has to offer.

“No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life. (P.211)” – Brene Brown, Rising Strong

What if I could recognise my regrets? What if I could learn from them? What if the way out of the mucky stuck-ness is through seeing what caused getting stuck in the first place? What if I could accept the fear of the great unknown and grieve my homesickness well without them dragging me so far down? What if friends and family could accept that I miss the lands I’ve loved and that nostalgia is simply a part of the pilgrimage? No repentance required.

Dancing with regret can be a devastating and transformative teaching process. As hard as it is, however, allowing space for it is far more freeing that trying to live a regret-free life. We all have regrets. Attempting to erase them from our collective memories only darkens our eyes to our realities around us. If I’m gracious enough with myself to allow time and space to learn what regrets can teach me, their heaviness will life in time. With help from God, friends, family, and community, they will lift.

And they will leave.

Yes, sometimes they will return. The nature of regret is to seek it’s soul of origin. But if I continue to allow space for them as I grow, I discover they need less time and space space each time they return. The heavy sadness becomes a parting wistfulness as I learn the steps to the dance. It’s a practice, not a perfection; a pilgrimage, not a place of destination.

Sometimes we are able to visit to the spaces we’ve left. Columcille returned to Donegal, Ireland once before his death. Sometimes we’re able to return to stay in order to try again, but often times these returns are but brief visits on the continuing journey. We discover they just aren’t the same places we left oh-so-long ago. Sometimes we aren’t able to return at all.

I can live with regret without being deceived into believing that it isn’t really there, while at the same time learning the dance without being bogged down with its heaviness. Regret is a difficult dance partner, but a partner worth leaning into.

Giving voice to them with the intent to release them is a first step to rising in courage and rising strong.





Irish Cultures and Customs 


Iona Christian Community

Glendalough Hermitage Centre

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