Longing for Eternal Love

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Right Panel: Loch na Chara (36 by 24 inches)

Originally posted on https://ignitumtoday.com/2020/10/01/longing-for-eternal-love/

by Anja Renkes, University of Notre Dame

Dia Dhuit! (God be with you in Irish/Gaelic)

This article and painting are part three of a triptych work that are complete when held together as a whole. The first article can be found here, and the second here.

The right panel of this triptych deepens the representation of Christ’s victory over evil, sin and death.

This lake is known as Loch na Chara and, according to an Irish Professor, my guide in the field, it is believed to be the place where the devil was drowned by St. Patrick. This remarkable saint is believed to have battled and conquered many evil spirits as he introduced Christianity to Ireland. Standing with your back to the holy wells and pilgrimage site, this lake stands before you on the other end of the mouth of the pass.

St. Patrick’s holy well, at the crest of this mountain pass called Mám Éan, has been a Catholic pilgrimage destination for many years. Other kinds of rituals that are not specifically Catholic or Christian, which may include elements of pre-Christian religions, also continue at some holy wells today.

The objective persistence of many cultic or religious practices at these places reveals a human longing for communion and healing. This longing is significant, and I hope that my work, as it explores the evidence of this longing at holy wells, might offer a response by pointing to the life-giving well of Jesus’ mercy and love in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Catholic popular piety requires that pilgrims have received suitable catechesis to understand how to participate, so that it may nourish them spiritually and assist in developing a relationship with God. My work seeks not to qualify all the practices that occur at holy wells, but to understand and recognize the longing revealed therein.

Upon further contemplation, this longing is revealed in myriad ways throughout the world today. The persistence of religious practice at holy wells provides an example that reaches back through times gone by; however, modern phenomena like night clubs and even social media all reveal this deep, innate desire for communion.

Simply put, my work focuses on contemplating visual evidence of humans longing for God, and God’s love for humanity in the extravagant beauty of creation.

Thank you for coming along this pilgrimage with me. May God bless you, protect you and heal you and your families. Ave Maria et Aves Crux Spes Unica. (Hail Mary and Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope).

I am grateful to share my favorite Compline (night) prayer of the Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey, who welcomed me into praying with their community as a visitor for the last two weeks of my time in Ireland. Together, each night, some of the last words spoken in the vicinity of the monastery before the silence of the evening are these:

When darkness everywhere draws near
Creations sign to close the day,
Teach us to calm our inner fear
That we may watch with you and pray.

Let not anxieties undo
Our trust that you are always there
Increase our fragile hope in you
Who hold us ever in your care.

As shadows overwhelm the skies
Shine in our hearts, eternal light.
Stay with us, Lord, as daylight dies;
Let angels guard us through the night.

To you be glory, God of rest,
To you be glory, God the Son,
To you be glory, Spirit blest,
The One in Three and Three in One. Amen.

The full triptych: side panels = 24 by 36, center = 36 by 48

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