Having attended the M.A.L.E.’s Ireland meetings in Marley Community Centre for about six months I felt I was ready for my Rites of Passage experience (MROP). I had the option of going to Texas and doing it in the desert under a big sky and a hot sun. But on reflection I decided better to take my chances with the Irish weather and do it in the company of mostly Irish men where perhaps I would have the opportunity of making long term relationships with guys in the same boat as me. Searching. For what I was not too sure but the Richard Rohr stuff I had been reading and my experiences of M.A.L.E.’s had encouraged me to believe I would find some of it at the Rites. The process of having to apply for a place was unusual and very helpful. The idea that you had to be ready for the Rites experience made sense to me. The process of reflecting on the supplied questions and crafting the answers helped me become clearer on my commitment and more ready to participate in whatever happened. I felt there was an air of secrecy and excitement about the rites. The men I spoke to who had already done them were very circumspect with the details (none!) and this created an air of secrecy. Which I was OK with. Sort of. The men whom I knew were planning to attend were excited – just like me – and perhaps a bit intimidated.

So…………..Three years ago I joined a group of wounded men, just like you, in a wet field under a grey Irish sky, in a canvas tent and I entered the liminal space of my MROP. The space in between. Neither here nor there. Neither one thing or the other. I knew nothing in detail of what lay ahead of me. I was surrendering control for four whole days and nights!  I had decided to enter the experience and take the risk of losing control and not being able to think my way through it all.  I wanted to reengage in my spiritual development but most of all I wanted help in growing up and becoming more of a man. What does it mean to become an elder? I felt the tingle of fear and uncertainty. What awaited me in this liminal space? What ghosts’ and terrors, what darkness and despair, what emptiness and pain? What hope and healing, what forgiveness and redemption what love and renewal?

My MROP experience has had a huge impact on me. It was the most extraordinary couple of days of my life. I managed to let go of my need for control and I let my mind take a back seat. Each ritual took me to greater depth of awareness, a greater level of contact with my real self and a real encounter with the great mystery. I was utterly alone and yet I was not alone. I felt and experienced the company of my brothers, my fellow searchers and travellers. Some of those men have become my Anam Cara – my soul mates, my soul brothers. The weather lived up to my expectations. It rained for four of the five days. My little tent stayed dry and snug and the sound of torrential rain sent me to sleep each night. When the sun did come out on the last day it was glorious. I felt a changed man. I felt exhilarated and renewed. I was knackered and smelly. I was more of a man. I felt I had more courage and compassion. I felt fully alive.

Perhaps you are at the threshold of your initiation into the next level of being a man? Perhaps you are at the point of leaving one state of thinking, being and doing in order to enter emerge a new man with a new way of thinking, being and doing. The MROP is an extraordinary opportunity for you to enter the gate of your initiation – your rite of passage. It is designed with wisdom and great care. You will be immersed in a series of experiences. I urge you to let go of your need for control. Stop thinking. Suspend your tendency to judge. Go with the flow. Trust the great mystery.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

TS Eliot – Little Gidding

The MROP is, in my experience, a great opportunity to explore and experience a new beginning. The MROP was a huge help to me to enter my initiation “through unknown, unremembered gate”.