Mass was celebrated in the Gregorian Rite according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) in the Church of St. Paul, Emo, Co. Laois, this morning at 11 a.m., with the kind permission of the Very Reverend Parish Priest of Emo and Portarlington. The Mass was offered for the repose of the soul of Aline, Countess of Portarlington.
Land for the church was given by the 3rd Earl of Portarlington, whose estate at Emo Court adjoined the site, in 1862. Five years later, his wife, Alexandrine or 'Aline,' Countess of Portarlington, converted to the Faith. A mere seven years later still, aged only 51, she died and was buried in the church.
The church was designed by J. S. Butler. Butler was the son of the architect William Deane Butler, more famous as a civil than an ecclesiastical architect, principally courthouses. However, he did design St. Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ss. Peter and Paul's Church, Monasterevin, and St. Cronan's Church, Roscrea, which latter was completed under the direction of his son. The son's ecclesiastical works in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin include:
St. Patrick's Church, Raheen (1859)
Presentation Convent, Mountmellick (1860)
Parochial House, Portlaoise (1861)
St. Fintan's Church, Mountrath (1861)
St. Bridget’s Church, Clogherinkoe (1862)*
St. Mary's Church, Broadford (1865)*
Church of St Paul, Emo, Co. Laois (1866)
Church of the Holy Trinity, Allen (1869)
Old Ss. Peter and Paul's Church, Portlaoise - Facade and Tower (1872)
St. Joseph's Church, Baltinglass - Tower and High Altar (1872)
The College Building, Clongowes Wood College, Clane (1874)
*Both in Balyna Parish
His work in Kildare and Leighlin represents the greater part of his ecclesiastical work.
John Sterling Butler, who was born in 1816, was apprenticed to his father. He was elected City Architect on 1 October 1866 and resigned the post in May 1878. Some mystery appears to enshroud the man. The date of his death is unknown to me and has not appeared in my researches. He disappears even from street directories about 1878, his last known address seems to have been 40, St. Stephen's Green, which is now part of the Bank of Ireland on the corner of Merrion Row.
The other mystery, at least in this context, is his membership of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland since 1849. In the same year, from exile in Gaeta, Blessed Pius IX gave an allocution Quibus Quantisque:
"Those abominable sects of perdition which are as fatally destructive of the salvation of souls as of the welfare and peace of secular society have been condemned by Roman Pontiffs, Our predecessors; We have also personally condemned them Ourselves in Our Encyclical Letter of November 9, 1846, addressed to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church, yet today in virtue of Our Supreme Catholic Authority - We, once again, condemn, forbid and anathematize them."
The question then forces itself, why was a member of "those abominable sects of perdition" employed - and employed so frequently - on ecclesiastical projects in the Diocese?
The Mass was that of the day, for the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. In speaking of St. Augustine, Fr. Larkin recalled yesterday's feast of St. Monica, his mother, who wished him to be a Catholic Christian and who wished him to remember her before the Altar of God. After Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given. Afterwards, we went to Emo Court, the home of the Portarlington family and later the Noviciate for the Irish Jesuit Province, now in the care of the Office of Public Works.
The Church contains the notable monument to Aline, Countess of Portarlington, for whom the Mass was offered. The monument is by Sir Joseph Boehm, a Viennese-born sculptor who worked in England. In 1873, he executed the funerary monument to Florence, Marchioness of Waterford, and that of the Countess of Portarlington the following year. He was to become sculptor in ordinary to Queen Victoria and was responsible for her image on the 1887 coinage issue. The recumbent effigy of Lady Portarlington in fine white Carrara marble is reputed to be among his finest works, the execution of the hands and arms is particularly notable. On the wall above the monument is a painting of the Resurrection.
Incidentally, the Anglican cemetery in Coolbanagher contains another monument to Lady Portarlington at the tombs of the family erected by her sister who was the Duchess of Marlborough.
A considerable number of other points of interest are to be found in and around the Church. Outside the Church in the graveyard are the Mission Cross and Statue of St. Paul, Patron of the Parish.
Inside the porch are two fine scenes in statuary, the Pieta to the left and the apparition of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to the right.
In the organ loft are two paintings flanking the west window - which is in white opaque glass - one of St. Patrick (Gospel Side) and the other of St. Brigid (Epistle Side). St. Patrick passed through Laois a few miles south of Emo and St. Brigid is Patroness of the Diocese.
The stained glass windows are also very fine. Advancing from door to Sanctuary, they are: 'Suffer the Little Children' (Gospel Side) and 'The Nativity' (Epistle Side); Angels with scrolls 'Laudate Angeli' and 'Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus' (Gospel Side) and Angels with scrolls 'Angelus Dei' and 'Ora Pro Nobis' (Epistle Side); 'Magdalene washes the feet of Christ' (Gospel Side) with no corresponding window; 'Revelation of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary' (Gospel Side) and 'The Annunciation' (Epistle Side), each to correspond with the side Altars.
In the Sanctuary, one window on the Epistle Side represents the instruments of the Passion and the window on the gable shows Ss. Peter and Paul flanking Our Lady and St. Joseph, popular Saints on the Diocese.
The Church is one of the most beautifully furnished in the Diocese and, almost uniquely, retains all the traditional features in situ. The two side Altars, dedicated to the Sacred Heart (Gospel Side) and to Our Lady (Epistle Side) remain as does the full expanse of the Altar rail, with access at either side of the Sanctuary but no gates at the centre. The pulpit is mirabile dictu both intact and in situ as is the fine High Altar. Everything about the Church is redolent of reverence for the things of God. This is a Church well deserving of a pilgrimage built by a lady of Faith who is deserving of our prayers.
Reports of the previous Mass in St. Paul's are available here and here.
May the soul of Aline, Countess of Portarlington, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace!
St. Paul, Patron of Emo, pray for us!