In contrast to the glorious weather in Cill Mhuire last Sunday, the feast of St. Mark was what the Gael calls a 'fine soft day' with foreboding skies and drizzle that was seldom absent. However, the sight of the Rock of Dunamaise towering over the Laois countryside as we turned off the motorway for Vicarstown set the scene for a spiritual experience that was at once both distinctly Irish and thoroughly Roman. It recalls to mind the words of the Dicta of St. Patrick (and, come to that, the motto of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record): "...si quae difficiles quaestiones in hac insula oriantur ad Sedem Apostolicam referantur, ut Christiani ita ut Romani sitis..."
A very respectable congregation of 67 persons, mostly from the Parish and the surrounding Parishes, started arriving well before the start of Mass. A Carmelite Priest, Fr. Des Flanagan, O.Carm., who recently celebrated his 80th birthday was in fine voice. However, he was well matched in a very vocal congregation who not only joined in the responses but performed a variety of Latin and traditional vernacular hymns that - as some told me after Mass - they hadn't heard or sung in forty years. However, it all came rushing back to them this morning.
Vicarstown is not the most central spot in which to have a Latin Mass. There really isn't even a village to speak of beside the Church. However, it is a beautiful and a blessed spot. The beauty of the place - and the beauty of the Church - were ably matched by the warmth of the people and the hospitality of the local Priest and sacristan. May God bless them and keep them safe in His protection!
To the South-west is the site of the Monastery of Oughaval , founded by St Colman Mac Ua Laoighse, who was a disciple of St. Fintan.
This was the home of the Great Book of Leinster, known as the Lebor na Nuachongbála, or the Book of Oughaval.
Fr. Flanagan took the opportunity of the conjunction of Scripture-writers (a pilgrimage for the Holy Year of St. Paul on the feast of Saint Mark) to illustrate the different approaches of the Evangelist and the Epistlist but to emphasise that their message was identical - the Person of Christ. He noted that their destination in earthly terms was also the same, Rome. St. Peter, the mentor of St. Mark, and St. Paul are the twin pillars of the Church, set upon the foundation of Rome by Providence.