Friday 4 August 2023

Saint Patrick's Purgatory The Sanctuary Of Station Island Lough Derg - Alice Curtayne

Saint Patrick's Purgatory: 
The Sanctuary Of Station Island Lough Derg
An Excursion into the Fifth Century
Alice Curtayne
The Clergy Review (1932)
Browne and Nolan, Ltd. (1933)
Anthonian Press (1935)

Saint Patrick's Purgatory:  The Sanctuary Of Station Island Lough Derg An Excursion into the Fifth Century - Alice Curtayne

I first encountered the works of Alice Curtayne in 2018, since then I have read works by her a titles of 25 times. I have been slowing tracking down all her volumes. If my research is accurate she wrote 22 books, 10 booklets or tracks, she was an editor and translator of 2 volumes. She also contributed numerous articles to various newspapers, magazines and religious publications. Some of her volumes I have read a number of times. And I read this one twice back to back. Most of Curtayne’s works never had North American editions. I have had a hard time finding them. Recently I discovered that the National Library of Ireland will scan out of print books for a price. I tracked down what I thought were two different volumes but it was the same text from two publishers both reprints. One was listed as Lough Derg (1935) and the other as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory (1933), however both were the same volume. I read them both and did a comparison and other than page size they are identical. It was disappointing to pay for scans of the same volume twice but I enjoyed it so much I read each edition. I have longed dreamed of doing the Camino but after reading this volume, I hope to someday do this if it is still available.

I have no description of dust jacket information from this volume. The first part if Curtaynes description of the pilgrimage. Following that are some descriptions of the sanctuary, and some of the indulgences. The sections in this volume are:

An Excursion Into The Fifth Century
St. Mary's Church, St. Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg.
The Picture of Our Lady Of Perpetual Succour.
Copy of Authentication
Prayer to Our Lady Of Perpetual Succour
Farewell Hymn to Lough Derg.
Pilgrimage of Lough Derg Devotional Exercises.

I highlighted several passages my second time through the volume. Some of them are:

“STATION ISLAND, in Lough Derg, County Donegal, the goal of Ireland's national pilgrimage, is a mere craggy knoll less than an acre in extent, set in a grey quiet lake, enfolded by a chain of low rolling mountains, barren, grey too, quiet as the lake they shield”

“One detail enhancing its antiquity is that the physical features of the landscape have remained absolutely unaltered through the centuries. Of course, there are new buildings on the island, of which I shall speak presently, but from all points the view is unchanged. Its aspect remains the same as in the fifth century. The eye still rests on all that Patrick saw.”

“The world appears never to have intruded. No town has grown up within view; nowhere on the landscape are there visible traces of man. Into this world of silver cloud, dark water and dim mountain, not even the railway has ventured its clatter and puff; as though fearing to dare, it stopped short four miles away, at Pettigo. The spirit of the ancients broods undisturbed over this charmed corner. No one is in a hurry here. Speed has no interest.”

“The whole pilgrimage is more instructive of Patrick than tomes of commemoration.
The Apostle truly belongs to it. One senses vividly at odd moments that he leads the way, not stiffly in episcopal robes and mitre as he is conventionally pictured, but striding in his white habit as Ethne and Fedelm saw him, his cloak fastened by the great brooch that he lost once in the vehemence of his gestures, tearing up all the heather to find it again.”

“The pilgrimage is strictly a three-day minimum. On the first day there commences the pressure of a rigid discipline probably beginning in hideous discomfort, but ending in such a miraculously tonic effect-physical, mental and spiritual-that it is never forgotten, and the pilgrim invariably returns for its renewal.”

“On each of the three days, fasting is enjoined.”

“The moment the boat pushes off, the Holy Island swings into view. The beautiful white Basilica crowning it appears to float on the water like a mirage or a dream.”

“In contrast with the sanctuary, the broad naves are flooded with the colour of gorgeous stained-glass windows under the galleries, each window containing a Station of the Cross by the late Harry Clarke.”

“The pilgrim next learns that at least one Station has to be made before the day's fast is broken, since a total of nine Stations are said during the period of residence on the island. A Station commences with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the Basilica. The pilgrim then walks to St. Patrick's Cross, made of rude iron and set on a stone column. It stands a: few paces from the church door. Kneeling before this, he recites one Pater, one Ave and the Creed.”

“The pilgrim then walks to St. Brigid's Cross which is one of Roman type, deeply incised on the left wall of the Basilica, and believed to date from the twelfth century. The block on which it is cut was taken from the wall of the old church that was demolished to permit the erection of the present Basilica. Kneeling here, three Paters, three Aves and the Creed are said. Then, rising, the pilgrim faces the lake with outstretched arms his back to the Cross, and three times renounces the World, the Flesh and the Devil.”

“He now ascends the craggy hillside where a mighty wheel of Paters, Aves and Creeds revolves inexorably. Spread out on this knoll are the remains of six beehive cells, or oratories. They are mire circles of stones, dedicated respectively to Saints Brigid, Brendan, Catherine, Columba, Molaise and Dabheoc. In the centre of each circle stands a bronze Crucifix, numbered in its order and named, so that following the exercise presents no difficulty.” 

“The endless files of pilgrims, walking, kneeling, dipping, murmuring, make a scene fantastic beyond all telling.”

“The method, in fact, produce a dual effect. It begins by stunning the mind like hammer blows on the head. But then the first stage of listless reaction has passed, the monotone of prayer is found to have the same result as that produced by chanting the Liturgy in an unvaried tone: the whole mind focuses on the words. When you arrive at saying the fiftieth Creed at Lough Derg, you really begin to take note of the word, and at the hundredth you begin to mean them.”

“I have said that simplicity is one of the precious characters of this pilgrimage. It is a penance, and every other idea is excluded. Each day of the pilgrimage one meal only may be had. This consist of dry bread which may be toasted, and black tea which may be sweetened.”

I hope those few samples give you a feel for this work. There is an extended scene of this pilgrimage in her novel House of Cards. In fact reading this a lot of it was familiar from the section in the novel. It appears the Pilgrimage is still available today and from the pictures on the Lough Derg site, it appears nearly as isolated and picturesque as Curtayne’s descriptions from nearly a century ago. I loved reading this little volume and from research finding out about this pilgrimage site that has been active for over 1500 years. This is an excellent little volume and if you can lay your hands on it I highly recommend it.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

For All reviews and articles about Alice Curtayne click here.

Books and Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
A Recall to Dante
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933
The New Woman Transcript of a Talk
The servant of God, Mother Mary Aikenhead
The Story of Knock
The Trial of Oliver Plunkett
Twenty Tales of Irish Saints

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

Books Translated by Alice Curtayne:
Labours in the Vineyard by Giovanni Papin

Books Contributed to by Alice Curtayne:

Saint Patrick's Purgatory:  The Sanctuary Of Station Island Lough Derg An Excursion into the Fifth Century - Alice Curtayne

Saint Patrick's Purgatory:  The Sanctuary Of Station Island Lough Derg An Excursion into the Fifth Century - Alice Curtayne

Saint Patrick's Purgatory:  The Sanctuary Of Station Island Lough Derg An Excursion into the Fifth Century - Alice Curtayne

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