Holycross Abbey is a busy place these days with the annual Novena to Our lady of Perpetual Help.
Thousands have descended upon the famous Abbey since early last Saturday morning and will continue to do so until Sunday next.
As darkness gives way to light in the early morning, they come.
Trudging through the murky stillness towards the beacon of light on the banks of the River Suir in picturesque Holycross, pilgrims walk in the footsteps of their ancestors to practice their faith in the ancient Abbey.
The annual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help ushers in these nine days in a very different way to the 356 others which make up the year - the early rise and sleepy blurry visage, give way to a real eye opener. They come from all over - the host parish rolling out the red carpet for neighbours and friends alike, people from adjoining diocese and counties - all are made very welcome.
This is the scene, early in the morning, for the 7:00am session. But, it is replicated throughout the day culminating in the 9:30pm session in the Abbey. For this session, they arrive in darkness, are filled with light, and depart in darkness again with the hoping of spreading the light in their hearts to those they meet on their journey.
Today the Novena is five days old - the feast of St Ailbe - the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. Today, those who are doing the nine day Novena are more than half way there. But today, the invitation is extended to people who have not attended yet, to come along. It is never too late to experience something quite unique; to take time out; and to find a little bit of solitude in a world so crammed with hustle and bustle.
The sessions continue at 7:00am, 10:30am, 4:30pm, 7:30pm and 9:30pm with an additional Anointing of the Sick ceremony at 2:00pm on Saturday, and Blessing of the Infants on Sunday at 2:30pm. Confessions continue also (except on Sunday) and there will be special Penitential Rites on Friday at the 7:30pm and 9:30pm sessions.
The refurbished Abbey Shop will also be open as will the coffee shop/restaurant if you wish to have a cuppa with a friend.