On a fine July morning, members and friends of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Group travelled to the Church of St. Paul in the small village of Emo, Co. Laois, for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Traditional Latin or Gregorian Rite.
Fr. David Jones, O.Praem., who is a Norbertine Priest living in a hermitage in the village of Duleek in the County and Diocese of Meath, celebrated the Mass, which was a votive Mass of the Holy Ghost for Vocations.
A congregation of 65 members and friends of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association were present for Fr. Jones' stirring sermon on reverence for the House of God and the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He went on to say that the same spirit of reverence must be shown for the ecclesia domestica, the Catholic Family. The Catholic Family, like the House of God, must be permeated by a spirit of silence, a spirit of prayer and a spirit of devotion to our proper duties. We mustn't neglect the duties of our station in life.
While a small schola sang the propers of the votive Mass, the proper of the Mass and vernacular hymns such as O Sanctissima, Soul of My Saviour, Salve Regina and Faith of Our Fathers were sung by the whole congregation.
Following Mass, the De Profundis was recited. This is a venerable custom in Ireland after Low Masses, endorsed by the Holy See, to pray for the souls of the Faithful departed who died during the long years of persecution when they may have gone without the Last Rites or even a Catholic Funeral during those centuries of British Rule when being a Priest or Bishop in Ireland was a criminal offence, as was the carrying out of any 'Popish Rites'. The Irish are deeply conscious of the debt they owe to those who suffered to preserve the Faith in Ireland and the duty we owe to pray for their souls.
The Church of Saint Paul is the only Church dedicated solely to the Apostle of the Gentiles in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, although several Churches in the Diocese are dedicated to him jointly with St. Peter. Dr. Comerford tells us:
"The handsome parish church of Emo, the site of which was a gift from Lord Portarlington, was erected during the pastorate of the Very Rev. T. O'Connell, but chiefly through the zealous exertions of the Rev. William Hooney, then resident curate. The bell-tower was completed by the Rev. John Phelan, P.P. Father Hooney died, to the great grief of his many friends, on the 3rd of May, 1872, and was interred in his native parish of Suncroft. The Altar of the Sacred Heart, at Emo, and another under the same invocation, at Suncroft [dismantled during later re-ordering!] have been erected to his memory. The commodious parochial house, and land attached to it have been granted by the Earl of Portarlington at a nominal rent. In the burial-ground hard-by, the Rev. James Murray lies interred; the inscription over his grave records that he was Parish Priest of this parish for 18 years, and that he died on the 18th of May, 1823, aged 80.
A monument to the memory of Aline, late Countess of Portarlington, has been erected in this church by her husband, the present Earl. It is a recumbent effigy in Carrara marble, by the eminent sculptor, Boehm, and is reputed to be one of his best works. This lady became a convert to Catholicity in 1867, from which time to the period of her death, she resided chiefly at Emo Park, edifying all by the earnestness with which she devoted herself to her own sanctification, to works of charity, and to the promotion of the beauty of God's worship. Her lamented death took place on the 15th of January, 1874."
After Mass, many members and friends went to Emo Court, which was built by James Gandon as the seat of the Earls of Portarlington. Emo Court forms part of our Catholic Heritage, not just as the seat of the Catholic Lady Portarlington but as the home of Noviciate of the Irish Jesuit Province for about 30 years from 1934. The house was purchased from the Jesuits by its most recent owner, Major Cholmeley Harrison, who did so much to rescue the house from ruin and who died this year. He donated it to the People of Ireland in 1994.