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Climbing Croagh Patrick: Not half the fun it used to be Photocall Ireland Archive

Column Cardinal Rules – Croagh Patrick for purists

This week, the (not) Primate of All-Ireland details the trials of the recent Reek Sunday – where fun has started to ruin the penitential tradition beloved of (not) Bishop Brophy.

LAST SUNDAY, FR Lawlor and I met Bishop Brophy for our annual Reek Sunday climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick. Unfortunately, the nature of the pilgrimage has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. Bishop Brophy was particularly unimpressed, and some very obvious tensions arose.


Fr Lawlor and I meet Bishop Brophy at the bottom of Croagh Patrick. Bishop Brophy is in typically bullish humour, and already railing against the “secularisation, commercialization, and destruction of Croagh Patrick as a sacred space.” It is like being in the dressing-room at half time during a county final. I can see that Fr Lawlor is already psyched up. Indeed Bishop Brophy has managed to create a genuine aura of vigorous piety.

Then a man dressed as a pink rabbit taps him on the shoulder and asks him, “Is this the starting line for the fun run?”


We start our ascent. Bishop Brophy is muttering and eyeing the pink rabbit. “Disgraceful,” he says. We notice a lot of costumed people who appear to be climbing for charity.

“Is that Captain Kirk over there?” asks Fr Lawlor. This only makes Bishop Brophy worse. “And not a bare foot among them,” he growls.


Two men pass us dressed only in shirts and trousers. They look bruised and battered, and are already struggling. Both are barefoot. “True pilgrims,“ whispers an awe filled Fr Lawlor. Bishop Brophy is delighted. He smiles a rare smile.


One of the men collapses. The other grabs him and hoists him up on his shoulder and shouts, “Come on, Mr Frodo. I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry you!” There are cheers from onlookers. Mr Frodo waves at his supporters.

Even over their cheers I can hear Bishop Brophy grinding his teeth.


A group of nuns passes us. We nod at them. They nod back. A relieved Bishop Brophy makes the sign of the Cross, and hope is kindled in our hearts.


They aren’t real nuns! Real nuns don’t do gang signs and shout, “Yo” in response to the sign of the Cross. Nor do they shriek and giggle amongst themselves. (Real nuns only shriek and giggle when on holiday together, and these nuns are definitely not on holiday).

A vein starts pulsing on Bishop Brophy’s forehead. He starts clenching and unclenching his fists.


Frodo Baggins is chatting to the nuns. Meanwhile Bishop Brophy is talking about the “appalling lack of respect being shown to a sacred place.” Fr Lawlor is struggling. “I have a stitch,” he gasps “can we stop for a minute?” Bishop Brophy doesn’t seem to hear him.

Captain Kirk comes over and asks Fr Lawlor “Are. You. Okay?” while doing his oddly pointless Captain Kirk shoulder rolls for emphasis. “Give the man some air, Jim,” growls Dr McCoy. “It is not logical that we should stop, captain,” says Mr Spock.

Frodo Baggins is inviting the nuns to a party in Hobbiton. A white-faced Bishop Brophy has stopped in his tracks. He watches them all. His mouth is moving, but no words are coming out. The vein on his forehead is now twice the size that it was.

A few feet away a man with a camera shouts to his wife: “Look, Margaret. Somebody’s dressed as a bishop.” The man takes a picture. Bishop Brophy bellows. For some reason I find myself thinking about King Kong.


Bedlam. Captain Kirk has offered Fr Lawlor some of his bottled water, but Bishop Brophy knocks it out of his hand along with his tricorder. Mr Spock attempts to give Bishop Brophy the Vulcan nerve pinch. When that doesn’t work Mr Spock attempts to kick Bishop Brophy in the groin.As rotund as Bishop Brophy is, he still manages to pivot away and upend Mr Spock. “Is that logical enough for you!” he roars.

The pink rabbit is now running towards the melee. Captain Kirk has taken up a fighting stance. The nuns are screaming….


Back at the foot of the mountain, Bishop Brophy is being bundled into the police van. After assessing the situation, Fr Lawlor and I decide to step aside gingerly and reluctantly let the rule of law take its course.

“But I’m a real bishop,” protests Bishop Brophy. Mr Spock is talking to a Garda who is taking notes. One of Mr Spock’s ears is missing. He looks at Bishop Brophy and shakes his head, “That guy is so method. I bet he thinks he’s Daniel Day Lewis.”

The van door is shut. As it drives away I hear the muffled cry “…a real bishop…”

The Garda frowns at Mr Spock. “You fun runners are getting worse every year. Give me the religious lunatics any day.”

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady
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