Clonmore sits in the north east of County Carlow a few kilometres from Hacketstown. The remains of its ecclesiastical site contains some clear markers from its ancient period around the 5th century. The village now would betray an earlier time of great activity in work, learning, and travel to and from this place.
The road south of the village has this site either side, where its ancient granite cross stands, ‘topless’ as a silent sentinel. A little further along from the cross we find a well marking what was an ancient place of connection, and the expectation of healing or recovery. Across the road there are a community of unmarked graves neatly place in rows, archaic and more recent. A few metres down from here sits an ancient Bullan Stone by the roadside, since well before Patrick.
Some historic annals consider at least some of these graves to be the final resting place of a few 6th century monks or abbots: a few of which are named as St Meadoc, St Finan the Leper, St Stephen, St Terno, St Lassa, St Dinertach, St Cumin, St Onchuo and St Brogan Cloen (who it's said wrote a poetic record of the life and miracles of St Brigid, here at Clonmore).
In spite of the realities of life, its struggles, uncertainty and often real risks, perhaps some of these Clonmore monks recognised themselves as ‘ikons' in the world where the divine inhabited them and they in turn forged connection with each other, in community and on pilgrim journey. These early Celtic Christian journeys, offer us a beautiful picture of tender, persistent, human connection as well as a profound reminder of the divine, present and powerful in all of us, even today.
‘Anamcara’ means the soul-friend; where an intimacy exists that loves the other as well as deeply respecting their wisdom. An honest, yet affirming space, this sense of anamcara helps each make peace with themselves, with others, with creation, and indeed with the passage from this life. Over time, these special soul ties of mentoring and strengthening contributed to the 'becoming' of each person, undergirded and nurtured by the energy of God's presence.
Ed Sellner in his book, 'Spiritual Mentoring', says that the Christian Celts found in their anamcara, a friendship that often brought profound change, be they male, female or even angelic. In this relationship was the compassionate ear, the challenging word. They were aware that God is close to those that speak as friends do, heart to heart.
Maybe the gathering together of these people, these friends, at places like Clonmore, sharing work, worship, wisdom and the life of a pilgrim, resourced them to also share anamcara. Maybe for us, it is something lost, yet to be found?
You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful, but difficult spiritual work of learning to love yourself.
"Who we are, coming into the world (the who and the gift and beauty that we bring), sometimes needs another pair of hands to hold a mirror before us to see with ‘fresh eyes’ how God already sees us." John o Donohue, Anamcara
Dereen river near Hacketstown a few mile form ClonmoreSunrise in Winter near Clonmore