Tuesday 28 April 2009

Pray for Cardinal Cañizares Llovera

Reports have appeared of the hospitalisation of His Eminence, Antonio, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, who was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in December '08. His Eminence recently celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in the Gregorian Rite at the Papal Altar of the Latern Basilica for the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Cardinal Cañizares Llovera is a great friend of the Gregorian Rite and deserves our urgent prayers for his speedy recovery.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Pilgrimage to Vicarstown

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.

What had the young people - and there were a few - to say. Some children had been brought by their parents but one brave youngster said that he wished he could learn how to serve Mass. However, the 'lost generation' was well represented too. I met two young ladies from a few miles down the road who had their interest piqued by the promise of Gregorian Chant but were as fascinated by the Liturgy as by the Music. I must say that they also remarked on how many of their neighbours could sing Latin from memory. It struck me too. I think it must also have struck the two local Priests who were in the congregation.

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!

It is also a place of mighty history and immense sanctity. Just to the south is the site of the Celtic Monastery of Killeshin, founded in A.D. 545 by St. Diarmuit, succeeded by St. Comgan of Thomond as abbot and followed, though not immediately, by St. Muirgein.

Just to the west of Vicarstown is the site of the famous Monastery of Clonenagh, the Monastery of St. Fintan and of St. Aengus the Culdee, the greatest Monastic site in Laois and one of the most important in the whole Island.

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.

Fr. Flanagan also reminded people of the next Mass organised by St. Conleth's CHA, a Requiem Mass for Bishop Thomas Keogh (1884-1969) in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Skeoghvosteen, Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny, on Saturday, 23rd May, at 12 noon. I was particularly impressed by his suggestion that anybody who was present who was from the Parish but who didn't attend Mass regularly should attend Mass in this Church or the Parish Church. I've heard that announced at every Mass organised by St. Conleth's CHA that I've attended. It's a nice touch. As one member of the St. Conleth's CHA Committee remarked to me afterwards, the Latin Mass should be a blessing to a Parish.

I must tell you about this hidden gem of Church architecture. It is an Irish country Church. There's no mistaking it for a continental Cathedral! It is simple, cruciform, with clear-glass windows between simple wooden tracery throwing an immense light upon the interior. The high altar is untouched, with its adoring Angels and original Crucifix and Candlesticks, as is the side Altar of the Blessed Virgin. There is also some fine stencelling (to which my shaky camerawork does not do justice) on the Sanctuary walls and even - rare to see preserved - a plasterwork paraclete on the Sanctuary roof. Likewise a rare survival in Kildare and Leighlin are the end quarters of the marble Altar rails. It has no tower but has an elevated iron bell stand in the grounds, typical of many Churches in the Diocese. This is a beautiful Church, made the more beautiful by the rarity of finding such beauty intact after long decades of renewal.

Latest issue of 'Christus Regnat'

The mid-year issue of Christus Regnat will be published soon. Articles will include:
  • Commentary on the Manila Guidelines
  • Most Reverend Bishop Matthew Cullen, D.D.
  • The Crusaders of Kildare
  • A Visit to a Seminary
  • The Greatest Sacrifice of the Mother of God
  • Actuosa Participatio
  • Report on the Holy Year of St. Paul

If you would like to subscribe to this and to future issues of Christus Regnat, e-mail to: heritage@catholic.org for further details.

Christus Vincit! Christus Regnat! Christus Imperat!

Sunday 19 April 2009

Seventh Monthly Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

A glorious late Spring afternoon saw a congregation of 17 (including 3 young children and 4 people from another Diocese) attend the seventh monthly Latin Mass in Newbridge. Fortunately, the attendance exceeded the lowest attendance (February) and knocked the previously second-lowest attendance (March) into third place.

However, the fall in attendance from March to April was only 20%, which is an improvement on the most recent previous falls from November to December, which was over 25%, and from January to February, which was almost 50%. It might now be possible to speak of a statistical trend, if not an average attendance.

The promise which dawned with the removal of responsibility for these Masses from the Edinburgh/Rome apostolates of the Fraternity to the apostolate in England is yet to bear fruit. Another, more worrying trend is the continuing refusal of permission for Latin Masses in other parts of the Diocese premised upon these monthly Masses.

Anniversary of the election of the Sovereign Pontiff

This day is the fourth anniversary of the election of the Sovereign Pontiff. Let us rejoice in Divine Providence which has given us Our Most Holy Lord Pope Benedict XVI!


Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff, Benedict XVI. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Forthcoming Masses

The next pilgrimage in honour of the Holy Year of St. Paul will be to the Church of the Assumption, Vicarstown, Co. Laois, Ireland, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, 25th April, 2009.

On Saturday, 23rd May, 2009, at 12 noon, St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association is organising a Requiem Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Skeoghvosteen, Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny, for the 40th Anniversary of the death of Bishop Thomas Keogh of Kildare and Leighlin, b. 1884, consec. 1936, d. 1969.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Blessed be the Most Holy Name of Jesus!

The Name of Jesus is the glory of preachers, because the shining splendor of that Name causes His word to be proclaimed and heard. And how do you think such an immense, sudden and dazzling light of faith came into the world, if not because Jesus was preached? Was it not through the brilliance and sweet savor of this Name that God called us into his marvelous light? When we have been enlightened, and in that same light behold the light of heaven, rightly may the apostle Paul say to us: "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." So this Name must be proclaimed, that It may shine out and never be suppressed. St. Bernardino of Siena (Sermo 49, De Glorioso Nomine Iesu Christi)

Happy Birthday Holy Father!

On the occasion of his eighty-second birthday, Saint Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association offers best filial good wishes and fervant prayers to Pope Benedict XVI!

Ad multos annos, Holy Father!

Saturday 11 April 2009

Easter Saturday in Sweden

Like most holidays, Swedes prefer to celebrate Easter on the eve, known as Påskafton in Swedish, rather than on the day, Easter Sunday, Påskdagen in Swedish.

In certain parts of Sweden the custom of äggapickning was observed. People gathered on Easter morning with hardboiled eggs in their pockets. Two players stood opposite each other, one holding his egg still and the other using his for attack. There were strict rules - end to end, never the sides. The winner was the one whose egg remained unbroken after the assault.

People decorate their houses with the Easter colors; yellow, green and white. They put yellow chickens with feathers of different colors all over their houses.

Eggs and herring, sometimes lamb, are the characteristic traditional Swedish meal for Easter eve and they very nearly represent Påsk all by themselves. They are part of the very traditional Swedish feast smörgåsbordet. Another popular dish on the smörgåsbord is Jansson's frestelse - Jansson's temptation - a potato gratin that has anchovies in it.

Bonfires are lit in some regions of Sweden in the afternoon. Some say they are to scare off the evil influences of the Easter witches on their Blåkulla journey. Others take the opportunity to clear gardens for the coming spring. For some regions, including the Stockholm area, the bonfires will happen instead on Valborgsmässafton or Walpurgis Night at the end of April.

Friday 10 April 2009

Easter Friday in Sweden

Easter Friday, in Sweden is called Long Friday or Långfredagen, and is not at all a pleasant affair. The most notable feature of popular customs for Long Friday is the påskris or Easter twigs. Birch twigs are brought indoors and decorated with coloured feathers.

Traditionally, the birch twigs were used to scourge children and servants to remind them of the sufferings of Christ.

The tradition of eating the Easter Salmon today is also still much observed, preserving the Catholic law of abstinence from red meat on this day.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Easter Thursday in Sweden

The names for the days of Easter are very evocative of their meaning in Swedish. The name for the Thursday of Easter is Skärtordagen. Skär means 'pink', so the day is called 'Pink Thursday'. However, the real meaning is buried deeper. Skär is also an ancient word for 'clean', which is a reference to the washing of the feet done by Christ at the Supper.

On 'Pink' Thursday Swedish children dress up as Easter witches or påskkärringar. This is a kind of Swedish Hallowe'en. It is certainly superstitious but it is a little silly to regard it as pagan, since it is simply a remnant of the customs and beliefs that were converted by the Christian Missionaries. Although these customs of Hallowe'en or of Skärtorsdagen appear to be pagan, they keep the Christian feasts alive in popular culture.

As is often the case with major holy days in Sweden, certain superstitions have become associated with Easter. People believed that witches were especially active and their black magic especially powerful during this week. Even in modern times people believed that women who practise black magic ("Easter hags") were out and about practising their witchcraft. On Maundy Thursday they were thought to fly off on brooms to consort with the devil at a place called "Blåkulla", returning the following Saturday.

In a Swedish church in Uppland, there is a painting from 1480 portraying three Easter witches holding out their drinking horns to be filled by the Devil with a magic potion. It was believed that on Maundy Thursday, witches (häxor) flew off for a rendez-vous with the devil himself. They feasted and danced to the singing of magpies, flying back just in time for church services on Sunday morning, where they might accidentally reveal their identities by saying their prayers backwards.

On the Easter Sunday morning people were a bit hesitant when starting of a fire in the fireplace. This as the one who first got smoke up the chimney was believed to be one of the Easter Hags. The idea was common that the Easter Hags got caught in the chimneys on their way home from Blåkulla.

Before the Easter Hags could fly off on their brooms they had to smear the broom or the object with which they intended to fly with a special mixture of secret origin. On their way to Blåkulla they often gathered in some nearby churchtower to get company for the long voyage. At the same time they could an oportunity to scrape off some metall from the church bells. According to some theories the metal was used as one of the ingredients to the mixture they used, but other theories states that they droped the filings in lakes on their way. This they did because they wanted to show that they were as far from God as the filings were from their bell.

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Easter Wednesday in Sweden

The week of Easter is called 'Stilla veckan' or 'the Quiet Week' in Sweden. The Wednesday before Easter is called Dymmelonsdag, dymmel being the wooden clapper you but in the bell in exchange for the metal one, to get the duller, more mournful, tone.

A common practice associated with this day is to fasten something on the back of some poor unsuspecting victim, often a silly note. This may be a continuation of the idea of betrayal that is found in calling the day 'Spy Wednesday' in other Countries. The notes are called dymmelonsdagspass - Spy Wednesday passports - and are thought to have originally been passports that the witches, who in Sweden were thought to have been particularly active at Easter, needed to get into Blåkulla. There they would feast with the devil and his kind. It can only be reached by air, so leaving brooms or agricultural tools out might mean loosing them to a passing whitch, who thought them suitable for flying.

One of the great traditions of Easter - and not just in Sweden - and in Sweden not just at Easter - is the performance of Bach, particularly his Passion Oratorios.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Powerhouse of Prayer

A few members of St. Conleth's accepted the kind invitation to join the Sodality of Our Lady retreat party from Dublin this year. The Rules of the Sodality say: "There shall be a Retreat every year for some days... Certainly the most fruitful retreat is the kind called closed." The retreat was housed in the venerable Trappist Abbey of Mount Melleray in the Knockmealdown Mountains of Waterford.

The hexameter couplet certainly rings true there:

Bernardus colles, valles Benedictus amabat,
oppida Franciscus, magnas Ignatius urbes;

Bernard loved hills, Benedict the valleys,
Francis, towns; Ignatius, great cities;

The retreat was given by Fr. David Jones, D.D., who lives an eremitical life at The Hermitage, Duleek, County Meath, and is a published poet of note.

The Retreat House of Mount Melleray is open to anyone who wishes to make an organised or a private retreat there through the year. It offers the opportunity to pray and reflect in close proximity to the Trappist Community, whose balanced life is based upon Prayer, Study and Manual Labour, which is a spiritual privilege of great value. For us, the Retreat House provided not only sustainence and shelter but also a fine chapel to house the Liturgies and exercises of the retreat too.

Some of the retreatants made a visit to the sister house of Trappistine Nuns at St. Mary's Abbey, Glencairn, County Waterford, high above the River Blackwater. There, they were received by the Abbess with several of the sisters and several novices, following which, they joined the whole Community for the Office of None.

Back in Mount Melleray, one of the Monks spoke to some retreatants about the path that led from the original Abbey of Cistercium to Mount Melleray Abbey.

He also told us his own journey to Mount Melleray that took place more than 50 years before.

We heard about the privations that the Irish Trappist Monks faced when they were expelled from France in 1830, arriving in Mount Melleray in 1832. He spoke of the grain bin that had been provisioned by the first Abbot, Dom Vincent Ryan, before an extended absence, with orders to refuse nobody in need.

Upon his return, despite their having fed nearly a hundred local people during a severe famine, he found the quantity to have remained the same. Also, he spoke of the local people, delighted to see the return of the Monks to Ireland after an absence of three centuries, who marched, led by pipers, to help them reclaim the land. "We owe the people a great deal," he said, "and we should never forget it."

The challenges facing the Monks of Mount Melleray today are hardly new. We heard about a visiting Abbot who was concerned about the number of Monks at Mount Melleray. He is said to have commented that “This is an age of activity rather than penance and contemplation and there are few now contented with the blessed lot of Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet in silence and detachment.” When he visited, there were 54 Monks at Mount Melleray. That was in 1855.

Over the course of the three days the atmosphere of prayer in this place was suffused with the melodies of traditional gregorian chant once again.

Every day, Mass was celebrated according to the Gregorian Rite. Within Mass, full propers of the Masses of the last feriae of Passion Week were accompanied by Mass IV Cunctipotens and a range of seasonal Latin hymnody - Ave Regina Coelorum, Vexilla Regis, and Crux Fidelis among them - as well as Prime and Vespers of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary chanted throughout the course of the retreat.

On the second evening we made a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, concluding with Sung Vespers of the Little Office and Benediction.

On the third day, the Sodality of Our Lady had its monthly General Communion. It is a custom of that Sodality to have a different patron for each month. The patron for April is St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, who was a member of their Sodality.

Throughout the retreat we had the opportunity to attend the Choral Office of the Monks, beginning each day with the Office of Vigils beginning at 4 a.m.

After the Office of Vigils, one of the Monks celebrates Mass (Ordinary Form) Versus Deum in the Retreat House Chapel.

Fr. Jones' Conferences were given in the Epistle-side Aisle of the Retreat House Chapel. He focussed throughout upon the practical impact that a retreat should have upon our lives - and upon our eternities. In particular, he stressed that the devil isn't worried about our general intentions made at a retreat but is very worried about a practical resolutions made on retreat that we begin to practice in our lives.

St. Tighernach of Clones and Clogher - god-son of St. Brigid

Dr. Lanigan, in his work, An ecclesiastical history of Ireland, Chapter IX, relates of St. Tigernach, as follows:

"St. Maccarthen of Clogher, whose history I have been obliged to anticipate, died, as already stated, in the year 506; and, as some say, on the 24th of March. He was succeeded by St. Tigernach, who fixed his see or residence at Cluaneois (Clunes or Clones) in the county of Monaghan, still retaining government of the church of Clogher, for which reason he was surnamed Ferdachrioch, or the man of two districts. He is said to have been of a princely family, grandson, by his mother, of a king Echodius, and to have had St. Brigid for godmother, through whose recommendation he was raised to the episcopal dignity. He had received his clerical education, as we are told, in the monastery of Rosnat in Great Britain under the holy abbot Monennus, and, it seems founded that of Clones before he was appointed bishop."

Dr. Lanigan comments on the association of St. Brigid with St. Tigernach:

"If this narrative deserves credit, we must suppose that St. Brigid's standing as godmother for Tigernach was in her younger days, and, at least 30 years before A.D. 506. On this occasion it is observed that whoever was recommended for the episcopacy by St. Brigid, was immediately approved of and chosen by the clergy and people. (Compare with what has been said about Conlaeth of Kildare Chap. VIII, No. 10)"

Dr. Lanigan, in a passage that is a model of his scholarship and his prose, speculates upon the location of Rosnat Abbey:

"Where was that monastery of Rosnat? Neither the Monasticon Anglicanum, Stevens, Tanner, Nasmith, nor Camden have, as far as I could discover, a word about it, although it is often mentioned in the Acts of some Irish saints. In those of Tigernach, quoted by Colgan (ib.) it is observed that it was otherwise called Alba, or white. Colgan hence concludes that it was no other than the famous monastery of Bangor or Banchor near the river Dee a few miles from Chester, which must be carefully distinguished from the present episcopal town Bangor, which lies far to the West of where the monastery stood. (See Usher, p. 183.) His chief argument is that Ban, in Irish, signifies white, and so Ban-chor was the same as white choir. But, waving certain doubts concerning the said monastery having existed at that early period, it is to be recollected that Ban has not that signification in the British language, which is that to be looked to in this inquiry. I suspect that Rosnat or Alba was the celebrated see called Candida casa or White house, now Whitethorn. (See Not. 149, to Chap. 1.) The illustrious Ninia or Ninian had founded that see in the 5th century, and there can be no doubt of an ecclesiastical school having been established there. (See Usher, p. 661. seqq.) When we read of Nennio being the bishop, to whom some Irish students were sent, this, I believe, must be understood as originally meaning that they were sent to the school held in the see or Nennio or Ninia, who was dead before Tigernach or Finnian could have repaired thither. And in fact Finnian's master is called Mugentius, and what is very remarkable, the place Candida (AA. SS. p. 634). The master of Endeus of Arran, who is also said to have been at that school, is called not Nennio but Mansenus. Let me add that Candida casa lay very convenient for students from the North of Ireland; and it is worth observing, that of those, who are spoken of as having studied at Rosnat or Alba, scarcely one is to be found that was not a native of Ulster. There is a village and parish in Dumbartonshire, called Roseneath, anciently Rossnachioch, (Stat. Acct. of Scotland, Vol. IV. p. 71.) But there is no mention of a monastery having been there."

He goes on to quote from the Four Masters regarding the death of the Saint:

"An. 548 (549) St. Tigernac, bishop of Cluaineois, died on the 4th of April."

The Martyrology of Donegal gives his death as 4th April, 548, and gives something of his descent as follows:

"Bishop of Cluaoi-eois in Fera-Manach, or it is between Fera-Manach and Oirghialla Cluain-eois is. Tighernach is of the race of Cathaoir Mór, Monarch of Erinn, of the Leinstermen. Dearfraoich, daughter of Eochaidh, son of Criomhthann, king of Oirchiall, was his mother."

In the Life of St. Tighernach, quoted in Butler's Lives of the Irish Saints, it is stated that, while passing through Kildare, city of St. Brigid, with his foster-father, Cormac, who may well have been his maternal grandfather, the future saint was baptised by St. Conleth. Butler continues:

"From the foregoing narrative, Bollandus infers, that as Conlaid had been a bishop, when he baptized St. Tighernach, his elevation to the episcopal rank must have been accomplished previous to A.D. 480. For, St. Maccarthen died in the year 506; and, he was immediately succeeded in the See of Clogher by St. Tighernach. Supposing correctness in the foregoing account, it is conjectured, his baptism must have taken place, at least thirty years before the latter date, and during the younger days of his godmother, St. Brigid."

St. Tigernach of Clones and Clogher, pray for us!