Why should you and your students’ climb Croagh Patrick in Mayo?

Croagh Patrick is a sacred mountain in Westport, Mayo. Each year, as many as one million pilgrims and visitors make the very tough trek to the top to pray at the stations of the cross, participate in Mass, do penance (in which case the rocky journey is undertaken barefoot) or just enjoy the spectacular view of Clew Bay which can be seen in my own personal pictures below.

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Croagh Patrick has been a sacred site since ancient times. Before the arrival of Christianity, the Celtic people regarded the mountain as the dwelling place of the deity Crom Dubh. Neolithic art can still be seen on a rock outcropping known as “St. Patrick’s Chair” along the path to the top, and a Celtic hill fort was recently uncovered at the base of the mountain. According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland.

The site quickly became an important place of Christian pilgrimage. A stone oratory dating to between 430 and 890 AD was recently discovered on the summit. According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland. It is one of the main pilgrimage sites in Ireland for Christians. It can be studied as part of Section E of the Exam Junior Certificate Religion syllabus.

The first time I climbed Croagh Patrick a few years ago I found it to be incredibly challenging. I was not physically fit as I did not understand the significance and the benefits of physical activity. I climbed it with my uncle, cousin, two younger brothers and my father. My family are very physically active, my brothers play for our local teams, under-age for Mayo and for Connaght and my father still plays football for our local team at home. They had climbed Croagh Patrick a good few times already. At the time I thought I should probably climb with beginners but I went anyway. I am so glad I climbed it with them. It was a great bonding experience. 

Climbing Croagh Patrick was exhausting and also very dangerous as it is a mountain with slippy fields and rocks falling sliding down the mountain. It is amazing to see the amount of people that climb Croagh Patrick on any given day especially on Reek Sunday. I found Croagh Patrick to be an allegory for life. Climbing Croagh Patrick was as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Physically it is intense hard work that must be done but it’s up to the mind to override the urge to quit. When I came near to the top of Croagh Patrick, my body felt like I could not climb any more. I was so close to the top but yet I gave up, my father gave me a pep talk and brought it all into perspective for me. Do I give up when life gets hard? No! Do I give up when I have loads of work to do? No! He will never realise the effect that pep talk had on me.  After his advice, I pushed myself to keep going. I would not give up no matter how much agony my legs were in! In fact at the end when I could see the summit in my sights I picked up my speed and gave it all I had. I said a prayer as soon as I reached the top. Climbing Croagh Patrick reinforced in me the important idea that, in life, it’s about the journey, not the end result! Also I realised the importance of empathy and the significance of accepting help off others. Like I said earlier, my father and my two younger brothers are incredibly athletic and fit. (They play 3 to 4 football matches a week). The opposite to me! They found Croagh Patrick very doable but they never complained to me that I was slowing them down. In fact they had empathy for me and they realised how hard it was for me. They offered me so much support.When you see people going through a hard time, offer them support. Be there for them! Do not give up on them!

As a religion teacher, as I walked up Croagh Patrick, I felt Jesus pain. But I also felt Jesus triumph when I reached the top of the mountain. It was a spiritual journey for me.

Life is difficult but we must push on and never give up. Life is a constant rush, running from one way to the next. I like everyone else constantly worry about what I have to do. While climbing Croagh Patrick, I realised that amidst the rush and stress of my daily life, we lose ourselves and we forget what really matters in life. I realised we need to relax more and find time for ourselves. While I was climbing Croagh Patrick, I was not worrying about work or school work or stuff I had to do. That stuff did not matter to me at that moment in time. Croagh Patrick was one of the best experiences in my life. It taught me so much.

I really recommend every teacher to climb Croagh Patrick. Also every school should organise a school trip and encourage their students’ to climb Croagh Patrick.

The students’ will learn resilience, empathy, life lessons and they will also exercise. Life can be hard, we must teach our students’ to not give up when times get tough. It will improve the students’ communication skills as they must really help each other to push each other to reach the top of the mountain. Exercise releases endorphins (the happy hormone) which improve your mood. Bressie really endorses mental health fitness.

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Exercise is brilliant for a healthy mind and for helping stress/anxiety. It relaxes you, distracts you from your worries and it clears your mind. School is very stressful. I know I am only five years out of secondary school and I have a younger brother who has just started his junior cert so I understand the struggles teenagers face today. They are living in a highly pressured world. They need a break.

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Exercise also produces serotonin which aids sleep. Exercise is also good against the battle against obesity. The National Health survey showed 30 per cent thought children aged between five and 15 were most at risk for obesity, while a further 30 per cent said those aged between 15 and 30 were most at risk of becoming obese. A healthy body equals a healthy mind. It is a fact that exercise in early teens cuts risk of diabetes.  Leaving Cert students who continue to play sport while studying for their exams are more likely to go on to third- level education than those who don’t.

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