Saturday, 30 January 2010

Saint Fine, Abbess of Kildare

This is the first in a series of posts on saints of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin from my blog Under the Oak. My site is dedicated to the saints of Ireland and I explore their lives and the spiritual legacy of the early Irish church. I use as a primary source the Lives of the Irish Saints by John, Canon O'Hanlon, supplemented by other sources and more recent scholarship.

O'Hanlon has a very short entry for Fine or Finia, an eighth-century abbess of Kildare, whom the great 17th-century Irish hagiologist, Father John Colgan, believed had reposed on January 9 in the year 800, an event recorded in the Irish Annals:

St. Finia or Fine, Abbess of Kildare. [Eighth Century.]

Because truth and innocence of life distinguish holy virgins, they live without stain before the throne of God. We are informed by Colgan, that Finia, Abbess of Kildare, died on the 9th of January, a.d. 800. The same year is set down for the death of this Fine, in the Annals of the Four Masters.

Although it is not expressly stated, Colgan seems to regard this day as dedicated to her memory.

It seems impossible to discover much else about this particular successor to Saint Brigid as an individual, but Christina Harrington, in her valuable work on the role of women in the Irish church, can place the office of abbess into a context for us:

The sources of material on Irish abbesses are extremely patchy, and the overall quantity of evidence quite slim. The Irish left no guiding or prescriptive texts on this office; there is no surviving correspondence such as is found in Anglo-Saxon England and which proves so illuminating for the abbess’s position there. There is a small but important quantity of legal material in which are found occasional notes concerning abbesses’ rights and privileges; there is a large amount of hagiography containing anecdotes about abbesses; and there are annal entries for abbesses of the most famous houses...

In female saints’ Lives, the characterization of the foundress serves repeatedly to restate the holy ideal not only for the ordinary nun, but also for the abbess, since in Ireland the major female saints were abbesses. As the spiritual heir of the foundress saint, the abbess was supposed to manifest at least in part her patron’s virtues and be in her own lifetime a role model in the religious life. The Lives also offer insights into the practicalities of an abbess’s duties, both to her own nuns and also to the outside world. Thus the foundress formed the prototype for the abbess’s role, both spiritually and practically....

In her community of nuns, the abbess too was the supervisor and governor, domina and mother. In the female Lives, the abbess is the person who is directly responsible for ensuring the monastery’s survival. She decides if the community is to move location. She procures food and beer in times of scarcity, and organizes help in fending off attackers in times of danger. It is she, for example, who asks for charitable help from clerics, monasteries, and other nunneries when her own community runs into difficulty.

Decisions on who joined the familia were within the abbess’s remit: it was she who approved the intake of novices and the adoption of fosterlings and abandoned babies. She was responsible for the maintenance of the moral standard and adherence to the rule. Then there were matters of discipline, and in the Lives the abbess appears as inspector, judge, and setter of punishments.

Like the foundress saint whose heir she was, the abbess had to strive to embody the seemingly contradictory qualities of world-renunciation and temporal dominion. She was to uphold the ascetic tradition whilst at the same time shoring up and even expanding her church’s sphere of control...

One of the abbess’s most important tasks in the continued work of aggrandizing her church was the provision and reception of hospitality, which in early medieval Ireland formed one of the major currencies of social interchange, social cohesion, and assertion of power and status. Failing to provide hospitality to those whose rank warranted it brought dishonour upon the failed host; providing abundantly brought status, and fulfilled economic and/or ecclesiastical obligations...

The ideal abbess was a provider of abundance to all the religious superiors who came to her community. A poem attributed to St Brigit from the tenth or eleventh century, shows her as the giver of hospitality: the feast she provides is one of spiritual nourishment, and her overlord is none less than Christ and the hosts of heaven. Hospitality was a Christian virtue and Brigit its exemplar, just as Monenna was treated as an exemplar of the discipline of fasting.

C. Harrington, Women in a Celtic Church- Ireland 450-1150 (Oxford University Press, 2002), 165-169.

Harrington has much more to say about the office of abbess, and has a particularly interesting analysis of the power that these women were able to wield in both the secular and the ecclesiastical spheres. Irish law did not see women as legally competent and some of the sources upheld the need for all women to have a male 'head'. In theory this would seem to create a problem for Abbesses as the equivalent of male 'heads' of religious communities. Yet the sources also indicate that this was not necessarily so in practice. Harrington sees the accounts of abbesses acting as confessors or soul-friends as especially important to the question of 'headship', although of course an Abbess could not hear confession in the sacramental sense. Indeed, some Abbesses were even prized as soul-friends by men, Saint Samthann of Clonbroney is one famous example. Abbesses like Fine were also drawn from the Irish aristocracy of the day and thus derived some of their authority from their connections to powerful ruling families. In her case this authority was bolstered by the fact that Fine was the heir to a foundress of exceptional sanctity, and it is surely a mark of how important a figure the Abbess of Kildare was felt to be that the Irish Annals continued to record the deaths of the successors of Saint Brigid for centuries after her passing.

This post was originally published here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Pilgrimage in honour of St. Brigid of Kildare

Pilgrimage in honour of St. Brigid of Kildare on Saturday 20th February 2010.

Procession to St. Brigid's Well, Tully, departs from St. Brigid's Parish Church Kildare Town at 12.30 p.m.

Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite in St. Brigid's Parish Church Kildare Town at 2.30 p.m. followed by Benediction.

A Map of the locality can be found here.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Mass @ St. Paul's

St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association organised a Mass this morning for Christian Unity Octave, or Week for Christian Unity, in St. Paul's Church, Arran Quay, the home of the Irish San Egidio Community. This was the second time that we had been to St. Paul's, the last being last January, during the Holy Year of Saint Paul.

This year the celebrant was Fr. James Larkin, P.P., who gave a magnificent sermon on Christian Unity that, he said, was not the work of human dispute resolution like the Labour Court or the result of a compromise on the essentials of the Faith, but was the work of the Holy Spirit, which was why we need to pray, especially during this Christian Unity Octave, for the unity of all who believe in Christ.

The soloist during the Mass was the magnificent Miss Máire Mullarkey, who was able to lead the congregation in singing the common of the Mass and traditional hymns, as well as singing the Mozart Ave Verum (k. 618) and Panis Angelicus from César Franck's famous Messe à trois voix. Miss Mullarkey is a well-known wedding singer among other professional singing engagements. We were all deeply moved by her singing.

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Standing Stone: Ardristan Church, Co. Carlow.

This will be the first in a series of posts about some of the ecclesiastical ruins in the Kildare and Leighlin Diocese which I hope will be informative and not too boring for you. I run a small website called ‘The Standing Stone’ which deals with places of historical interest in the midland region. I was kindly asked to contribute to this blog with information and history about certain places. I have followed the format that I use on my own site. First, I will give the location of the site with Ordinance Survey co-ordinates. Second, I will give a description of the site along with any history that is known and finally I will mention how difficult it is to visit the site. For my first post I have selected Ardristan Church in county Carlow. It is in a poor state and will give you an indication of the condition of some of our history.

As for myself, I am a biblical historian and run my website purely out of interest in our wonderful heritage in my spare time.

I hope one day we will meet amongst the ruins…

Ardristan Church, Co. Carlow.

Location – On the N81 just S of Tullow. OS: S 842 711 (map 61).

Description and History – This ruined church is in a very poor state in one of the worst kept graveyards that I have visited. This is very unfortunate since some of the graves are still visited and it must be upsetting for the relatives to have to battle the undergrowth to get to the grave of their loved one. I visited this site in November and it was all but impenetrable so in the height of summer it must be a nightmare. The church is in a poor condition but there was probably more to see under the brambles. I couldn’t even get into the church to see. The foundation of West gable is exposed and consists of some massive boulders. The nave and chancel was divided by a pointed arch which collapsed in the 1940’s – luckily the E gable is still standing to a height of about 4m. The church would have been about 17m in length and 7m wide. It is hard to date this church since little is known about it but it clearly medieval and built in the Gothic style.

Difficulty – Easy to find and has a small lay-by for parking. There is a memorial to people who died in the 1798 rebellion there and steps leading to the graveyard. Effort, at some point in time, was put into this site but it has clearly not been kept up which is sad.

Ardristan Church, Co. Carlow.

Ardristan Church, Co. Carlow.

Ardristan Church, Co. Carlow.

This article was originally posted on 'The Standing Stone' and can be found by clicking here.

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

A Tale of Two Towers

A view of Arran Quay from the West where the River Liffey flows
under Mellows Bridge with the Campanile of St. Paul's Church
and the Dome of the Four Courts Building on the skyline.

Two further pilgrimages for the Holy Year of Priests will be made on Saturday, 23rd January, to St. Paul's Church '@Smithfield' , Arran Quay, Dublin 7, for Mass in the Gregorian Rite at 11 a.m., and on Saturday, 1st May, to the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow, for Mass in the Gregorian Rite at 11.30 a.m.

Last year, we had Mass in St. Paul's to mark the Holy Year of St. Paul during the Octave for Christian Unity and we are glad to have the permission of the Administrator of the Church to return again during the Octave.

The details of the pilgrimage to take place in March will be announced later.

The Mass on the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker will be the first celebrated there in the Gregorian Rite in more than 40 years. The funeral of Bishop Thomas Keogh in 1969 would have taken place before the publication of the Novus Ordo Missae but the Liturgy would have followed the reforms of 1965 and 1967.

The Campus of Carlow College with the Cathedral of the Assumption.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sixteenth Monthly Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

Five unfortunates made their way through hazardous conditions today to attend the regular monthly Mass in the Gregorian Rite celebrated by a Priest of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, to be told that it had been cancelled the day before, although nobody bothered to tell even those local people who have attended faithfully for many months. It was the only Mass cancelled today in the Parish of Newbridge.

If consolation can be drawn from these figures, it is that the new low is only slightly lower than previous lows. 8 persons attended the Mass in November. 10 persons attended the Mass in October. 10 persons attended the Mass in June.

Approaching the town of Newbridge from the Bog of Allen, one crosses the Railway at Mooney's Bridge. The first sight is the distant clock tower of Newbridge College run by the Dominican Order since 1852, the same year as the completion of the Parish Church. The Dominicans have a long and proud association with the area since the year 1356. The FitzEustace family were the first patrons of the Dominicans in Kildare, which is one source of the devotion to St. Eustace, who is the patron of the Dominican Church. The symbol of St. Eustace, the stag with the cross between its antlers, familiar to patrons of Jägermeister beer, is found in several places in the Church and adjoining Priory.

This is a closer view of the same scene. It looks down towards the clock tower from the west from the top of Mooney's Bridge, which crosses the Railway Tracks between Mount Carmel Estate and Ailsbury Park Estate.

The Church of St. Eustace staffed by the Dominican Order is the third to stand on the site, having been consecrated in 1966 by Michael Cardinal Brown, O.P., who had been Rector Magnificus of the Angelicum, Master of the Sacred Palace, Master General of the Dominicans, and who served the Church with great credit during the Second Vatican Council. The Church was built in a traditional plan with the choir at the 'eastern end. The High Altar has as much space in front as behind, indicating that it was built to accomodated Masses celebrated both versus Deum and versus populum.

The Church has a set of stained glass windows depicting scenes from the book of the Apocalypse and has a large number of works by Fr. Henry Flanagan, O.P., who was a member of the Dominican Community in Newbridge for many years. He is responsible for the Stations of the Cross, the Calvary scene above the High Altar, the Statues of Our Lady within and of St. Dominic and Blessed Peter O'Higgins, O.P. without the Church. Five Sunday Masses were celebrated here today - none were cancelled.

Walking towards the Parish Church along the River Liffey, looking back upstream towards the Dominican Church and Newbridge College.

A view of Newbridge College from 'The Bridge' of Newbridge. The Church tower can just be seen over the trees to the left. The clock tower of Newbridge College can just be seen over the trees to the right.

The campanile of the tower of St. Conleth's Parish Church, Newbridge, County Kildare, where five Sunday Masses were celebrated today - none were cancelled.

St. Conleth's Parish Church, was built close to the banks of the River Liffey (from where this photo is taken). St. Conleth himself lived not far from here until called to become Bishop at the nearby Ecclesiastical City of St. Brigid at Kildare.

St. Conleth's Church Parish Church was built on land donated by the local Mansfield family in a very prominent spot, unlike so many Irish Catholic Churches of the period that are hidden away in back streets our outside the centre of towns on account of the prejudice of the powerful Protestant minority.

Construction began in 1847, at the height of the Great Irish Famine, and was completed in 1852. The Transepts and Sanctuary are later additions. The stone was carried by the local people by horse-drawn cart from the hill of Boston several miles away. The local people of Newbridge know how to thrive in difficult circumstances.

Next to the Parish Church is the Patrician Brothers' Primary School. The Congregation was founded in the Diocese by Bishop Daniel Delaney of Kildare and Leighlin in 1808. The school, in red brick, was completed in 1914. The Patrician Brothers took over the Boys National School in 1939.

Cill Mhuire (The Church of Our Lady) where three Sunday Masses were celebrated today - the only Mass to be cancelled there was the monthly Gregorian Rite Mass, cancelled without warning to the Congregation.

You are welcome to use the images in this post but please credit this blog when doing so.

Our Lady of the Snows, pray for us!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Making the News (Part 4)

In this Part, I'm going to take a look at coverage of other religious events in Ireland by Pathé newsreels.

Corpus Christi Processions

The Corpus Christi Procession was a feature of Catholic life not only in Ireland but throughout the Church since the establishment of the feast in the 13th Cent. However, Ireland took a particular pride in honouring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, for example, in Galway in 1924, in Artane in 1924 and 1925, the Irish Defence Forces in the Curragh Camp in 1925, Navan in 1930, in Bandon in 1941,

May Processions

As with Corpus Christi Processions, usually in June, the Irish made great efforts to honour Our Lady in her month of May. Good examples are found at Inchicore in 1921, then at Mount Argus in 1922 and 1923. However, Inchicore returned to pride of place again in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1931.

Other Events

Pathé also covered the procession of the Franciscan Third Order in Killarney in 1921 and, in 1926, the celebrations marking the centenary of the arrival of the Dominicans in Waterford. In 1926, Sodalities are shown processing into St. Andrew's Church, Westland Row, Dublin. The Mullingar Confraternity processes in 1927.

The Patrician Year

In 1961, Ireland celebrated the 1,500th anniversary of the death of St. Patrick. Pathé newsreels cover the celebrations in Dublin and Armagh. I would also include the coverage of St. Patrick's Day for 1950.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Traditional Mass in Celbridge

After the success of the Traditional Mass on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Parish of Celbridge, Co. Kildare, has decided to have another Traditional Mass at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, 6th January, the feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord.

Well done Celbridge!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Making the News (Part 3)

Back in August, 2009, I posted twice on the Pathé newsreels available online. Part 1 covered the Bishops of Kildare and Leighlin (Drs. Foley, Cullen and Keogh). Part 2 covered Archbishop Byrne of Dublin (although this clip of his enthronement in 1921 was omitted). In Part 3, I want to look at the newsreel coverage of other Irish Prelates.

Archbishops of Armagh

Michael, Cardinal Logue (1840-1924) was elevated to the Archiepiscopal and Primatial See of Armagh in 1887. He was created Cardinal in 1893. He is shown attending the meeting of the Irish Hierarchy at Maynooth in 1921 and shown again before entering the Conclave that was to elect Pope Pius XI. His death in 1924 was the subject of a newsreel.

Patrick, Cardinal O'Donnell (1856-1927) succeeded Cardinal Logue as Archbishop of Armagh in 1924. He is seen here visiting Dundalk, a town in his Archdiocese, in 1926, the year he was raised to the purple of the Cardinalate. Also in 1926, his Eminence attended the famed Eucharistic Congress in Chicago. There are some outtakes from the same scene. His funeral, the following year, was also covered in newsreels.

Joseph, Cardinal McRory (1861-1945), was elevated to Armagh in 1928 and to the purple in 1929. In 1938, his Eminence blessed the new Mother House of the Columban Missionaries, the Maynooth Mission to China, at Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath. In 1942, he was in Dublin to celebrate Mass in celebration of the Episcopal Jubilee of Pope Pius XII.

John, Cardinal D'Alton, Archbishop of Armagh (1882-1963) was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1946 and was created Cardinal in 1953. His death was marked both in Dublin and in Armagh.

In 1963, in the last ceremony in the Traditional Rite, Archbishop, later Cardinal, Conway, was enthroned as Archbishop of Armagh.

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly

In 1910, Most Reverend Dr. Fennelly, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, conducted a ceremony at the Rock of Cashel.

Archbishop of Melbourne

It's hard to say where the Archbishops of Melbourne stood in order of precedence in the Irish Hierarchy but Archbishop Mannix stood head and shoulders above them all. In 1920, protests about the outrageous mistreatment he received at the hands of English Armed Forces was protested in London. He visited a partly free Ireland in 1925. The principal consecrator of Dr. Mannix was Dr. Fogarty of Killaloe (see below for Ardagh and Clonmacnoise).

Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray

In 1931, Dom Stanislaus Hickey received the Abbatial Blessing as Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray Abbey in the Knockmealdown Mountains just to the North and East of Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. It is interesting to note that the Blessing took place in the old Abbey Church, which was soon to be replaced. Dom Stanislaus, likewise, was to be replaced in April of 1933 by the noted Dom Celsus O'Connell. Mount Melleray celebrated its centenary in August 1933, on which occasion Cardinal McRory (see above) laid the foundation stone of the new Abbey Ahurch. Preparations for building were started immediately, but the actual work did not start until January 1935. The striking new Church was completed and solemnly blessed in November of 1940.

Bishop of Kilmore

In 1937, Most Reverend Dr. Michael Lyons (d. 1949) was consecrated Bishop of Kilmore at the then Cathedral Church of St. Patrick in Cavan Town, Co. Cavan. Dr. Lyons also celebrated the centenary of the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1939.

Dr. Lyons was responsible for the building, between 1938 and 1942, of the present Cathedral in Cavan, the Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Felim. It was, thus, one of the last cathedrals to be built in Ireland. It post-dates the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Meath, by three years. Only Galway's Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas, consecrated on its titular feast, 15th August, 1965, post-dates it.

Cavan Cathedral has the almost unique distinction among Irish Cathedrals in having the full length of its Altar Rails intact. Mirabile Dictu! Like its near neighbour, Longford Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise (see below), it uses the column as a principal feature.

Bishop of Cork

In 1920, the Most Reverend Dr. Daniel Coholan, Bishop of Cork, presided at the funeral (also here) of Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, who had died a prisoner of the English. He is to be seen from about 2 minutes and 14 seconds in the first and at 2 minutes 50 seconds in the second. Dr. Coholan himself died in 1952 and was buried from his Cathedral Church. Dr. Coholan was at the heart of the struggle for Independence, witnessing not only the escalation of the War of Independence but also the ravages of the Black-and-Tans who shot and harrassed his Priests and People as well as burning a large area of the City of Cork in reprisal for the efforts of the Irish Volunteers.

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise

In 1927, the funeral of Bishop Hoare of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise was filmed at the Cathedral Church of the Diocese in Longford Town, Co. Longford. Dr. Hoare having been appointed to the See in 1895, was 32 years as Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.

One of Dr. Hoare's early acts as Bishop was to establish scholarships to the Diocesan College, St. Mel's College. He was equally concerned with the state of the library system that was being developed through the Carnegie Trust. He wrote: "I think the Organising Committee should have nothing to do with the Carnegie institution unless it allows you to select your own books," which was a measured compared with that taken by his confrere, Dr. Fogarty of Killaloe:

"I will have nothing to do with a Carnegie Library. I have seen some of these institutions. They are storehouses of wretched novels and semi-pagan stuff of the same cultural level as penny illustrated papers from England, which, I am sorry to say, our people buy and smoke like opium, with the same narcotic effect on their brains and better life. We have enough of that poison without taxing the people to supply more of it. What advantage are the ratepayers, already overburdened, from the mountains of Kinnitty to the bogs of Edenderry, going to get from supplying out of their slender purse lounges and novels to the cigarette-smoking, idle, mooning youths of Tullamore and like towns; for no one else is going to resort to your fanciful treasure houses? Any money that Ireland has to spare, even to the extent of millions, should be first of all put into making secure that cardinal industry on which her life depends. When that essential structure is made perfect, then we can think of libraries."

Dr. Fogarty, although he was 'only' the Bishop of Killaloe, was, in fact, an Archbishop and reigned in Killaloe from 1904 to 1955.

Dr. Hoare was succeeded as Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise by Dr. McNamee who was to participate in the Second Vatican Council and die in office in 1966, having reigned over the Diocese for 39 years.

Friday, 1 January 2010

St. Connat of Kildare

Today is the feast given in the Martyrology of Donegal for St. Connat or Comnat or Comnantan who was Abbess of Kildare in succession to St. Brigid until her death in the year 590.

Nothing is recorded of her life but it is an excellent opportunity to recall to mind the many excellent women of the Convent of Kildare, particularly her sister Abbesses, St. Darlaugdach, Abbess of Kildare, who was the immediate successor of St. Brigid and lived for but a year after the great foundress, St. Tulalla, a near contemporary of St. Connat, St. Sebdana, Abbess of Kildare, who died in the year 726, St. Affrica, Abbess of Kildare, who died in the year 738, and St. Finnia, Abbess of Kildare, who died in the year 801.

All ye holy Abbesses of Kildare, pray for us!