holy hill hermitage

Whew! The past few days have been a whirlwind of adventure!  After leaving a near perfect stay in Newfoundland, the beginning of my journey to Dublin was quite hard.

After waiting at the airport for 9 hours, I boarded my plane and sat next to a French speaking couple, one of which was a noticeably ill woman. She spoke no English and he spoke very little.

Not long into the flight, I awoke to the sound of her puking into those little white paper bags they give you. “It’s not the plane,” her husband said. “Not to worry, she’s just ill.”

Since the flight was full, I had no choice but to stay in my seat. I don’t know about you, but the sound of someone heaving and hacking up acidic contents on a hooray-you-get-to-breathe-recycled-air-particles plane isn’t very appealing to me. Occasionally, when the captain would turn the “fasten seat-belt” sign off, she’d attempt to make her way to the bathroom, which meant crawling over my seat and putting her hands all over my stuff.

Upon returning from the toilette, she tried to put my seat belt on twice. I became freakishly aware of how many germs were being spread on this aircraft. It was like a scene from some horror film where everyone was coughing and sneezing all over me and I was suffocating in stink. How did people fly when H1N1 was outbreaking?

The lady kept saying, I’m sorry. I’m sorry! It’s okay, I said, but she didn’t understand English.

At one point during the flight, when I could hardly stand the smell any longer, I asked the stewardess for a cold cloth for my neighbor to put on her forehead and I put a drop of peppermint oil on it for her, which I told her would settle her stomach, calm her down a bit and cool her off. She was grateful. I was too, since now I could smell peppermint instead of puke. Yikes! Admittedly, my motivation was slightly selfish, but I’m sure she found my gesture quite kind.

Because my flight left at 11pm Newfoundland time, which is 2:30am Dublin time, I didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes before we landed. When we did, I was relieved to get off the plane.

I went to collect my bag, but it wasn’t there. I spent the next 20 minutes talking with 3 flight attendants and waited for them to locate my bag, which was fairly beat up when I received it. Eventually, they found it and I ran ahead to customs.

Like I was instructed, I handed the lady the letter (guaranteed to grant me a smooth transition into the country) the Spiritual Life Institute gave me for participating in the program. For some reason, this complicated matters further. After a few questions, she said she needed to “look into things a bit more”. I’m pretty sure I failed the entire immigration process. It went something like this:

Do you have medical insurance? No, I said. To which they responded, “You’ll need to get that incase you get hit by a bus and need to pay for your hospital stay”. 

How much do you have in savings? Not much…

How long are you staying? I’m not certain. I’m playing it by ear. Of course I knew I couldn’t stay more than 90 days. They nearly denied me entry after this one.

And finally… How are you getting to Skreen?  By bus, which leaves in 15 minutes. Please have a seat, they said.

I wish I would have read a “Things not to say while passing through customs” book prior to my departure. Yikes!!!

I walked over to the empty set of 5 metal chairs and sat down, nearly crying now. I still had puke germs all over my palms and needed to use the bathroom, which I couldn’t get to until I passed customs.

15 minutes later, they reluctantly stamped my passport with the words, “I highly recommend you get some insurance” and I ran to the transportation desk asking if the bus had already left. “Sorry,” they said. The next one is in 3 hours.

I went to an airport restaurant to order something light for breakfast, since I was feeling a bit queasy from the journey. I asked for porridge; they said they were out. I asked for a fruit salad; they said it hadn’t arrived yet.

I decided to go with the traditional Irish breakfast: 2 eggs, Irish soda bread, sausage and ham. It was delicious. Eventually I boarded my 3.5 hour bus to Sligo and jumped on another bus connecting to Skreen. I was dropped off at the cemetery where I was picked up by Ceil and taken to Holy Hill.



My first glimpses of Holy Hill were enough to settle my sadness from a difficult journey and energize me out of my fatigue. The grounds are far more beautiful than any picture I saw on the website and the stay is providing me with everything I need and more. My fridge was stocked with fresh vegetables grown in the garden, farm fresh eggs, fair trade coffee, homemade granola, etc! A bouquet of fresh flowers decorated my dining room table.

I have my own living space in a courtyard with a fountain and my view from the kitchen is a brick wall lined with red ivy. A river runs through the grounds and the gardens are totally glorious!




On nice days I’ll get to tend to the gardens, which is what I did yesterday. On not-so-nice days I’ll prepare the rooms for guests, cook and clean.

My schedule during my 2 month stay will revolve around the rhythm of the hours. Together we’ll pray 4 times a day, work for 3 hours, meet for discussion, share an occasional meal, and get outdoors as much as possible.

I completely love it here.

Last night we saw a controversial Irish play in Sligo, done by the well-known Blue Raincoat Theatre group, called “Playboy of the Western World”. The first night it premiered in Dublin, a riot broke out because of the derogatory way it portrays country folk.

Today begins the official program. For for the next two months this is home, with the exception of a week-long holiday I’ll be taking with my Grandparents in Paris.

Today is also the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, which means we’ll share a celebratory meal together after mass. What a gift it is to be here!








12 thoughts on “holy hill hermitage

  1. Wow Chelsea! Sounds like one hell of a ride over …. But Holy Hill sure looks like it’s worth it! May your adventure there rock n roll!

  2. again Chels, ENVY wish I could join your beautiful wanderings. The pictures are breathtaking and looking forward already to more!

  3. Just breathtaking! Curious to know if any of the other program attendees had complications @ customs or trouble with their letter?

  4. Soooooo…..beautiful Chelsea!!! So happy to hear they granted you passage to your next places of beauty and adventure! Love you honey!!

  5. Those pictures are absolutely beautiful.not many people get to do what you are doing. You are very blessed. Safe travels.

  6. This is Candy….I am staying with Maggie and gave her your blog. Your pictures and stories are so wonderful and I am glad you are going to be in one place for a while. Know your loved and know how excited I am for you being able to do this.

  7. Chelsea!! What an incredible gift & challenge rolled into one. Hope you.will continue to “see” with an open heart & store up heart.treasures!! Praying for you protection,good.peeps to.cross your path & love to sustain you. Love you lots!!

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