An island of calm shows its true worth

An island of calm shows its true worth Pilgrims at the prayer beds in Lough Derg.

After last week’s review of the excellent programme on Fr Peyton, I’m in positive mode again.

Last week BBC 2 Northern Ireland started a fine new series Oilithreacht (Pilgrimage), under the ‘BBC Gaeilge’ banner.

Monday night’s episode was a warm treatment of the Lough Derg pilgrimage. It was promising that the focus was mainly on young pilgrims (Irish speaking too), though most were girls – no problem, but where were the young men? Resident organist Patrick McCrystal had to fly that flag!

Though the pilgrimage was serious business, with the newcomers finding it physically challenging, there was an infectious cheerfulness about the whole thing. As one contributor put it, people were there for everything from guidance to craic – and the two weren’t mutually exclusive.

It wasn’t just the pilgrims that were enthusiastic, support staff members were so positive about the place as well, from the Prior Fr La Flynn to those working in the kitchen.


The music was deeply reflective – I loved the singing group’s version of the Beatitudes. Cantor Dominique Cunningham said she felt even more open to the music when there were no phones and no contact with the outside world.

Lough Derg never looked as good – especially with the spectacular drone footage that gave the place a geographical context rarely seen. The filming was a visual treat especially when we saw the island suffused in shades of gold.

Beautiful scenery also marked last Sunday’s Walks of Life (BBC1) – a vaguely spiritual series that explores various walking routes in the UK and how people can get inspiration in the process. That latest episode featured the scenic delights of the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms in particular.

Self-confessed city girl Mehreen Baig enthused and reflected as she communed with nature, and met some interesting characters on the way. Her chat with humanist wedding celebrant Neil was worth noting – maybe it was the editing, but when asked to explain humanism he was spoke largely in negatives – humanism, he said, meant no gods, no goddesses, no religious books, no afterlife, no requirement to do anything.

There was nothing to join – just live “a worthwhile and meaningful life”. But don’t people of Faith try to live that kind of life as well? He thought humanist weddings were more fun, more intimate, more personal, rather a large claim I though.

However, I could see a religious application of his comment “if you don’t live life in an ethical way, then it’s unreasonable to consider yourself a humanist”.

Baig said she was a Muslim and found that her engagement with education and nature brought her closer to religious faith and showed her more evidence for God.

Meanwhile the movie Unplanned was released in the USA last week.  It tells the story of Abby Johnson, formerly a clinic director for Planned Parenthood and now a pro-life advocate and it may well give quite a shake up to the abortion industry. Unplanned – Behind the Scenes (EWTN, Wednesday) gave us an insight into the making of the film. What struck me most was the passion and Faith inspiration of those involved.

Of course this can sometimes lead to a film that’s overly preachy and therefore less effective with those who most need to get the message. Judging by the clips shown it seems the film has avoided the pitfalls.


I was impressed by the performance of Ashley Bratcher in the lead role – for her it wasn’t just another role, and in a quirk of fate she found out during the making of the film that she was minutes away from being aborted but her mother left the clinic in time – previously she was aware in a general sense that her mother had considered an abortion.

The real Abby Johnson and several other pro-life leaders, including Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, and Shawn Carney, co-founder of 40 Days for Life, were enthusiastic about the project and I was inspired by how committed the creative team were to religious faith and the pro-life cause.

They even have a supportive prayer campaign accompanying the movie. There’s no sign of the film being released here yet, and when it does arrive I suspect the secular media will be knocking it, but then if the artistic standard is high maybe it will get a fair hearing. In the meantime clips are available at – worth a look.


Pick of the week
Where God Weeps
EWTN, Saturday (night), April 6, 2 am

‘Rebuilding Iraq’ – learning more about the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee and its efforts to rebuild Christian villages.

Sunday Sequence
BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday, April 7, 8.30 am

Topical religious and ethical issues.

Songs of Praise
BBC1, Sunday, April 7, 1.45 pm

For the fifth Sunday of Lent, Sean Fletcher is in Brighton with Christian music-makers whose faith inspires their work, and Josie d’Arby meets a music therapist.