Posts Tagged ‘abbeyleix’

On Visiting Aghaboe Abbey – and some Spiritual Analogies

September 24, 2013

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During the late summer, when driving in the Durrow/Abbeyleix area, we encountered the ancient “Aghaboe Abbey,” in the tiny hamlet of Agahaboe in County Laois. Founded in around 577AD, the abbey was plundered by Norsemen in AD913 and has seen many other historical dramas over the years.

The blue sky turned a depressing shade of grey over the grey stones of the ruins, the graveyard and the church, but something told me that we should stop there to walk through that graveyard and for some reason I felt that I should bring some tracts with me…

As we walked along the path which led through the graveyard to the church, we noted with interest that all the names on the graves to the left hand side were of Anglo Saxon/Protestant origin, while those on the right were of traditional Irish/Roman Catholic origin.

Then I noticed a lady stooped over, vigorously cleaning the marble surrounds on her deceased relatives’ graves until they shone. No one else was in that graveyard but that lady and my husband and I and soon we were engaged in conversation with her. She was a friendly soul and as we talked for just a short time, she thankfully received the literature that I gave her. We talked of the names on the graves and she told us that she was the last person alive to bear her unusual surname in the area in which she lived. I thought of that lady later and I still pray for her.

Sauntering through a narrow entry which led into the ruins of the abbey, I thought, too, on those verses in Matthew 7, verses 13&14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

On entering the grounds of the ruins, I discovered that many famous people had visited the abbey and their names had been inscribed there to celebrate those special visits… Jakob Mayr, Bishop of Salzburg, 1984; President Mary McAleese, 1998; the Austrian ambassador, Dr. Paul Leifer, 2001…

I thought, too, of its founder, ‘St. Canice’ and the many other famous people who had associations with the abbey and then I thought on that verse in Revelation 20v12… “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” God is no respecter of persons.

He has no interest in how well known you or I may be in this world, or in the origins of our names… His only concern is that those names of ours be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  

I looked again at the graves and the great tombs, some of them hundreds of years old and as I walked, I knew that I was most likely walking on graves which had been hidden and buried over time, for this was a very old graveyard. But as I looked across, beyond the graveyard I saw what looked like an even older burial ground – that mound which is typical of megalithic tombs.

Yes, “one day is with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” (2Peter 3v8) but one thing is for sure… my Lord is returning soon. Those graves and those tombstones will be opened and “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thessalonians 4v16&17

I saw, too, the graves of very young children who would not have reached the age of understanding.

But what of those who do not know the Lord? The terrifying thought that those souls would be condemned to such an unspeakable eternity…

But it is not the Lord’s will that any should perish and it is His will that those who know Him should reach others as long as the Lord gives them life and breath. Even if we have no stamina left and our bodies worn out – we can pray, which is a most essential element of soul winning.

 As we drove away from that ancient place, I noticed huge transformers bearing electricity across the countryside. If one of those transformers were to fail – it would cause enormous problems for the rest and a blackout may ensue. As Christians, we bear the Word of God to hungry souls and like each transformer we have a fearful responsibility to the souls we encounter in each of our unique paths through life.

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Lovely Laois – and some Spiritual Analogies

June 19, 2012

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Laois, that truly beautiful little county in Ireland’s midlands. However, even Laois was looking decidedly miserable under a sullen grey sky and icy cutting wind on Saturday! After a meal in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, my husband and I drove on to Durrow, for the opening of the new Faith Mission centre there in the townland of Knockagrally. Crowds of people gathered into the tent which had been erected for the purpose of this opening and dedication service; the centre has not been entirely completed, as a conference meeting room is yet to be built.

Somehow the final hymn of the service spoke to me… “How Great Thou Art!” Especially those words… “Thy power throughout the universe displayed…” The Irish weather has certainly never been dependable, but these days I find it strangely cold for summer. God sends rain, wind, sun and the more extreme versions of all three phenomenons and others as He sees fit. I believe that adverse weather conditions can be God’s judgement upon a nation, including those who profess to know Him.

We stayed overnight at the hotel and on Sunday morning that elusive sun was shining. I looked out of the window to see crowded coaches leaving the hotel. Someone waved to me, as I stared down at them and waved back… those people, I instinctively knew, were making their way to the final meeting of the Eucharistic Congress  in Croke Park. Hurriedly I made my way down to the car park and was relieved to see one remaining coach. As these Cork people made their way onto it, each one accepted a priest’s testimony tract. I thanked the Lord for their response and even for one lady who gave the tract a knowing look and said: “You’re here to create peace, are you?” I was a little taken aback at this, but answered to the affirmative. Yes, I thought… the “peace that passeth all understanding”… but only my Lord can create lasting peace in hearts.

Surely only He can enable us to be content under all circumstances? Certainly, I came away from my tract distribution with the satisfaction of knowing that His Word “would not return unto Him void.”

Sunday proved to be dry with sunny spells and I was pleased to see some lovely scenes as we made our way slowly home… simple things like fluffy clouds reflected in a little window of the old sexton’s house in Abbeyleix, reminding me of that verse: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11v4)

The tent was gone from the conference centre, reminding me of the transience of life and that nothing ever remains the same on this earth… nevertheless, though people may change, circumstances may change – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8)

I saw a plaque commemorating the battle of Barnaglitty in 1599, in which Owny MacRory O’More with his small band of followers defeated the great army of the Earl of Essex, reminding me that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17v47)

The old stone arch railway bridge at the hotel reminded me that there is only one Bridge between God and man – the Risen Saviour; the round tower of Timahoe reminded me that He is my strength and “strong tower from the enemy” (Psalm 61v3); the ancient graveyard in Abbeyleix reminded me that I must work… “for the night cometh when no man can work;” (John 9v4); a sparkling river flowing between green banks reminded me that the “Lord is my Shepherd;” a ruined three storey period house reminded me that this life’s possessions are but for a season and the little stone table and seats that are so common in this part of Laois reminded me that “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

My prayer is that the nature of this ‘rest’ would once again be expounded from the pulpits of Ireland… by souls who have truly experienced it in their own hearts.