Mayo is fairly littered with old abbeys.....Moyne is one such, and Franciscan too... It lies snug in a cleft in the shore of a deep estuary, between Killala and Ballina, some thirty miles from here. As you drive down the lane, between flower-strewn hedges, even with the clutter of modern bungalows, there is an ancient feel to the countryside. The small hills look terraced.
History briefly tells that Moyne Abbey was consecrated in 1462. Then burnt down by the British governor of Connaught a century or so later. and the monks persecuted . But there were monks there in some form until the late 19th century.
It lies across fields, and, as I saw on an earlier attempt to see it on my way to Knock, the right of way lies across very hostile territory. The farmer blocks the path with a secure gate, and big notices, "BEWARE OF THE BULL" and "NO TRESPASSING"
This time I was determined. This is a Franciscan holy place; part of our spiritual inheritance..
So I made a cautious journey across cattled fields.
And there I was, in the shadow of Moyne Abbey... And walking up the driveway and through the great arched door. It was only the day after that I realised why I had thought it had no great immediate impact. It was, simply, where it is natural for a religious to be. Our natural environment. Home... I so long to know more; where the secular gravestones lying all over the ruins came from... And have learned since that in Ireland, old holy houses are a chosen burial ground for loved ones....
It is a vast complex. Refectory, chapel and a maze of smaller rooms on two levels. The great tower; and perfect cloisters. All roofless now.
I am not one who has any archeological interest. It is the spirit of a place that speaks to me. And when I looked at the tower, I could sense the violence and terror. For I think that these towers ( there is a round tower at nearby Killala I saw later, with links with St Patrick. The door is some 12 feet off the ground. Perfect to take refuge in.) were for safety against attack. Men of peace, and so soon after Saint Francis, attacked for no reason. I need to learn more here..
But they lived and worked and prayed here; and it is a good, strong, practical house of prayer. So I prayed my Offices there. As it was Ascension day, the psalms were of Sunday. I had missed two offices as I had had essential shopping to do, so I read the w hole of psalm 119 aloud there. And it felt good to add to the centuries of Franciscan prayer that have permeated those sturdy stone walls.. Then, I paced the cloisters, praying the Franciscan Crown. And it was fine and strong with swallows twittering atop the walls.
Outside, there are simple wooden Stations of the Cross. Just plain crosses marked with a black number. So I made the Stations, out in the sweet, cool, grey air.
Some of the crosses had fallen over. So, lovingly, I righted them. The second had been broken. It felt very, very poignant fitting the cross piece back on. And that simple liturgy took on for me that day a meaning it has never had before. The prayers I needed came to my lips from the depths of my being. And over the fence, two donkeys watched, with their gentle, wise old eyes, their backs forever marked with His Cross.
Oh, Moyne! I long for you to be alive with prayer again. To be lived in, and inhabited by religious. Not alone out there, unvisited and unvalued.
May my prayers here ache into your eternity.
So the abbey rests in peace there. Ancient, steeped in the prayer and
struggle that is the heart of Christ.