Saint Brendan's Prayer
Looking West from Dun Chaoin
Over the Blasket Islands

Sky, sky, sky is the word,

Just one shout in the direction

Of the blue vastness which weighs

Nothing and everything,



No one word can convey

How sky stings, pierces and turns

Inside out the heart of a man,

Scourges him delirious with the question

He is but cannot frame, because

Sky frames all questions, always

Stretching the asked and the asker

To the limitless blue

Upon blue upon blue deeps,


Questioning, which is fire,

Spangling night in glinting shoals

Of sidereal time, till the mind

Reels, besotted with splendour,

Questioning, which ignites the body,

Burns up every leaf of the mind,

Consumes the mind's roots, the heart,

In the smelter of spirit, till the soul

Pools, gleaming, breathing red gold,


Sky, all world, sky lights up,

Kindles with the coming sun,

Throws everything into unbearable relief,

We twist, maddened by the light

Of dawn, closing its disclosing

With departure, we stumble away,

Ever looking backwards to behold

The staggering Beauty for which

We were born belonging,

Any shadow will do,


Where we hope not to die of regret,

Because we forget just enough

To remember only sorrow, or better yet,

To feel nothing at all,

Than surrender to sky, star sky,

Grievous sky of radiant daybreak.


Is there one, is there anywhere

One Who will bend sky down, rend

Its awful vastness and descend,

The day reined in within His ardent

Glance, His wounds the burning stars

Which cover me with constellations

Of compassion, and be, Himself

My firmament and friend?


June 5, 1995

Dun Laoghaire, Ireland

Gregory Elmer O.S.B

were made of daub and wattle, or cobbled up from stone, without mortar, in an ancient self-reinforcing way, corbelling, into the so-called "behive cell." Those pictured here were built by the disciple of the great St. Brendan the Navigator, St. Fionan, in the early 600's. They are perched 700 ft. above the roaring Atlantic on Skellig Michael, "a desert in the sea," off the tip of the Kerry Peninsula. They testify to the supreme Passion of Jesus which gripped men to "lose themselves," beyond the circles of the world, in this transforming, intimate communion with Jesus and His Father in the mysterious Gift of the Holy Spirit.

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