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Trá na Reilige

Published on:
May 17, 2021
Read time:
1 min.
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One of my favorite places on earth
is an Irish cemetery.

In a village called An Cheathrú Rua
the Celtic crosses and tombstones stand
between Atlantic waves below
and crying gulls above.

And just above the graves
rise the four stone walls of a little medieval church,
covered in ivy,
roofless and doorless and open to the sky.
The window behind the altar
looks out to the sea,
and just outside sits a crypt,
its weathered inscription in Gaeilge,
its occupant lost to time.

“If you want to know the size of the church,
count the tombstones,”
wrote someone wise.
The tombstones of this church
may be innumerable,
for the eldest are lost,
the stones themselves buried and far-flung
as generation after generation
lived and died on this rocky soil.

Gravestones also surround the church up the road
where their descendants worship,
singing ancient hymns,
walking through medieval rites,
their voices joining the chorus
of the sinners renamed saints
throughout time immemorial.

There are no graves
in my home church’s yard;
and few ancient liturgies,
few timeless rites.
The mood is casual,
rooted in “here and now”;
relevance outweighs reverence.
And I wonder
how our faith might look different
With such tangible, weekly reminders
of ashes to ashes,
and dust to dust,
that we all shall die,
that we all shall rise.

Kayleen Gill
Kayleen Gill is a lifelong storyteller and resident of Washington State.  She enjoys hiking, traveling, Dungeons & Dragons, and buying more books than she can ever hope to read.

Cover image by Wendy Scofield

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