Don’t just dip your toes in the water, take the plunge!


Fr Antony Connelly CP

AFTER the long, frustrating travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we can travel again, something we took for granted, like many other things. I have been getting the opportunity for more short trips to Dublin lately, albeit for meetings. Nonetheless, any trip feels like a bit of a luxury now.

The meetings take place in our Passionist house of Mount Argus, Harold’s Cross, where my fellow Passionists live, and look after the parish and give themselves to serve people in other ministries. It is the main house for the Passionist Province of St Patrick’s, which comprises Scotland, Ireland, and Paris. There, you will also find the popular Shrine of St Charles of Mount Argus who died there in 1893 and was canonised a saint in 2007.

While these trips are not for pleasure, thankfully it is not all just boring meetings. One thing that I love to do while I am there, is to go with one of my fellow Passionists to Sandycove, near Dún Laoghaire, and to swim in the sea there. Despite being initially a little bit weary of the very cold and deep water, I can now say that I am pretty much hooked on the ‘40 Foot’ experience, and I make sure to pack my swimming shorts and goggles each time. The 40-Foot is a well-known and very popular point for wild swimming, and I think since Covid-19 it has become even more popular.

On occasion I have heard of people getting stung by jellyfish, but fortunately I haven’t had that part of the experience yet! There are also many seals spotted around the area, but they tend not to bother much with the swimmers.

The surprising thing for me is the number of young people swimming there, especially outside of the summer months. In fact, I am told that many people swim all the year round, and the hardcore even religiously brave the cold waters on Christmas Day. However, the young people seem to prefer to climb up on the rocks, and jump with abandon, plunging into the cold water, then they get out and do it again. The older swimmers, including myself, prefer diving off the low stone steps which lead into the water. To be sure, this is really the only way of approaching such cold water. Plunge! Go all in!

This image of the young people jumping off the rocks and plunging into deep water reminded me of something our Passionist founder, St Paul of the Cross, often spoke about in his letters to people trying to grow in their relationship with God. He would liken God’s love and mercy to a vast and deep ocean, and then the saint urges his listeners to plunge into it. He doesn’t tell us to dip our toes in to see if it’s ok, to test the water, but rather to dive in, to plunge.

Plunging is quite evocative and demands something that we don’t really want to do, that we give up, stop trying to be in control, to let go of the perceived solidity and security of the land and abandon oneself. Paul is telling us that when we approach God in our daily life, especially in our prayer, don’t try and keep one foot on land and just dip your toe in but rather leap, dive, plunge into this mysterious ocean of God’s unconditional love and mercy. In other words, let go of all our other perceived securities, which can really be anything, not just the usual suspects—wealth, power, honour, and pleasure—but absolutely anything that dominates my life, dictates my life, or gives me short-term highs but just as quickly leave me empty and disappointed.

However, the important dynamic is the surrendering of myself to the love and mercy of God, just like surrendering your whole self to the cold water of the 40 Foot at Sandycove. Our approach to God can often be, unconsciously, like dipping our toes in to test the water and see what kind of mood God is in today, projecting my current mood or state onto God, so that if I am not in a great place, it’s because God is unhappy with me or doesn’t care. This kind of
projection onto

Fr Antony Connelly CP is a Passionist Priest currently based in St Mungo’s, Glasgow. You can follow him on Twitter: @BrotherAntony