Tuesday 29 September 2009

14th Annual Novena

“Each year, the Association shall keep a novena for the perpetuation of the Traditional Latin Liturgy from 29th September to 7th October.” From the Statutes of St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association.

In 1996, in preparation for their first request to the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin for the regular provision of the Traditional Latin Mass for the people of the Diocese on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation, a novena of prayer and penitence was made. The letter was delivered to the Bishop’s House on the last day of the novena. Incidentally, that request remains unfulfilled.

This year, the theme of the novena is: "O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests." Fr. William Doyle, S.J., M.C.

You are invited to join by your prayers and penances in this novena for the perpetuation of the Gregorian Rite – particularly in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Ember Days or Quarter Tense

Today is the Ember Saturday in September. Etymologically speaking, however, the word is another example of the theological superiority of the Irish Gaelic language over the Saxon. In Latin, the term is Quatuor Tempora, the Four Times. French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, as may be expected of Romance Languages, retain this form. However, even German retains this root in description of the four periods of fasting that equate roughly with the four seasons of the year.

In English, however, the term 'Ember' derives from the connection of the two roots ymb (meaning around), and ryne (meaning a circuit or course). From this, it might be thought that there is a confusion with Rogation Days. However, it seems to refer instead to the distribution of the days throughout the year. The potential for confusion with Rogations is the greater in Welsh, however, which speaks of Ember Weeks as Wythnos y cydgorian (the Week of the Processions). Quarter Tense, a more arcane English term, follows the general usage of Christendom.

Irish Gaelic, on the other hand, retains the general reference to the Four Times in referring to Laethanta na gCeithre Thráth or the days of the Four Times.

Guéranger assigns the practice of Quarter Tense to the Prophet Zacheriah, Chapter viii, Verse 19: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Juda, joy, and gladness, and great solemnities: only love ye truth and peace."

The Douay-Rheims version notes for this verse that: "They fasted, on the ninth day of the fourth month, because on that day Nabuchodonosor took Jerusalem, Jer. 52. 6. On the tenth day of the fifth month, because on that day the temple was burnt, Jer. 52. 12. On the third day of the seventh month, for the murder of Godolias, Jer. 41. 2. And on the tenth day of the tenth month, because on that day the Chaldeans began to besiege Jerusalem, 4 Kings 25. 1. All these fasts, if they will be obedient for the future, shall be changed, as is here promised, into joyful solemnities."

The Irish understanding of the four quarters of the year needs no explanation for anyone familiar with the Gaelic calendar.

Some point to specific Celtic origins, linked to the Celtic custom of observing various festivals at three-month intervals: Imbolc, Baeltaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain. The quarterly or seasonal nature of Ember Time is typical of a society living in harmony with its environment and a society that recognises the inherant links between the spiritual and the natural.

Is it going too far to say that traditional Catholicism retained this sense of harmony but that it has been lost since Vatican II? Perhaps it is no coincidence that there has been a rise in interest in paganist practices and language relating the spiritual to the natural since the majority of Catholics have been deprived of traditional Catholic devotions.

A Latin rhyme gives the timing of the four Ember Weeks:

Dant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
Ut sit in angariâ quarta sequens feria.

An old English rhyme translates it as follows:

Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.

There has been plenty of discussion on the blogosphere this week about the fact that the calendar rubrics of John XXIII place the September Ember Week after the third Sunday rather than after 14th September or "Holyrood".

Mention of the Irish links to Ember Days would not be complete without some mention of the Irish spirit of ascetisism and fasting. For example, in the Manuscript Materials of Irish History by Professor O'Curry there is reference to Laethanta na gCeithre Thráth in the Rule of St. Carthage, in that part where the Saint speaks of the order of refection and of the refectory, at line 114 he says:

A tredan [three days total fast] every quarter to those
Who fast not every month,
Is required in the great territories,
In which is the Faith of Christ.

Interestingly, it would appear that the Holy See dispensed from the abstinence from flesh meat on Ember Saturdays outside Lent in Ireland in 1912.

Fota III International Liturgy Conference

The following Press Release was sent to us yesterday by St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy:

Following on the two highly successful liturgical conferences held in 2008 and 2009, St Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that its Third International Liturgy Conference will take place from 10 to 12 July 2010 in Cork and Fota.

The title of the Conference is “Psallite sapienter: Benedict XVI on Sacred Music”. The expression “Psallite sapienter”, literally translated “Sing ye wisely”, is found in Psalm 46 of the Vulgate. According to Joseph Ratzinger, this text synthesises what Sacred Scripture has to say about the kind of music that befits worship. Such music must be in accordance with wisdom, and therefore with reason and, ultimately, with the revealed word that comes from God, with the Word made flesh. In this way, it becomes capable of touching the human heart and raising it to communion with God, as it did in the case of St Augustine: “Greatly did I weep at the beauty of your hymns and canticles, moved deeply by the sweet chants of your Church’s music. The voices flowed into my ears and truth was poured forth into my heart, from which the emotion of my devotion overflowed: tears ran from my eyes and I was blessed in them” (Confessions, IX, 6, 14).

Unfortunately, recent decades have witnessed an impoverishment of liturgical music in many parishes and religious communities. All too often, church music has been reduced to the trivial and the banal, providing a poor substitute for the musical entertainment easily obtainable elsewhere and sadly failing to raise the heart and mind to God. Many factors have contributed to this situation, including an inadequate understanding of the kind of music appropriate to a liturgical setting, the banishment of the Church’s extraordinary heritage of plainchant and polyphony to concerts and recordings, a superficial interpretation of “active participation” which has effectively eliminated specialised choir music in the name of congregational singing, where such exists, and a pastoral pragmatism that has led to the adoption for worship of the mass-produced melodies of popular music.

Mindful of these problems, Joseph Ratzinger has addressed the question of sacred music in various writings, especially in his liturgical trilogy, “The Feast of Faith”, “A New Song for the Lord” and “The Spirit of the Liturgy”. In these he indicates the principles which underlie its historical development, he describes the qualities which should characterise all forms of liturgical music and he proposes a way forward, which is in line with the Church’s musical tradition, while encouraging genuine creativity.

The Society’s Third International Liturgical Conference seeks to promote the ideas advanced in the Holy Father’s writings on liturgical music. It also provides a forum for a younger generation of liturgists and musicians who are presently engaged in the recovery of the Church’s musical heritage for liturgical use or in composing beautiful new and uplifting works of sacred music. An international panel of experts in the fields of theology, liturgy and music – drawn from Ireland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia and the United States of America – will discuss various theological, historical and practical questions relating to sacred music in the Roman Rite.

Following an examination of Joseph Ratzinger’s writings on sacred music, the Conference will consider such issues as the place of the Psalms in the liturgy, the importance of Gregorian chant and polyphony, the Second Vatican Council’s directives on sacred music, the contribution of German musicologist Mgr Johannes Overath and sacred music in the Church today.

The Conference is open to the general public and registration forms can be obtained from the Society at colman.liturgy@yahoo.co.uk or by contacting the Secretary at Leeview, Rushbrooke, Cobh, Co. Cork.

Friday 25 September 2009

Along the Banks of the River Lee

Des has asked me to write up something about the Catholic heritage of Cork so I decided to start at the beginning, with Gougane Barra and St. Finbar. Before the time of St. Finbar, this lake was known as Lough Irce and it lies deep in a long valley, surrounded on all sides by hills, except on the east where the famous waters of the River Lee begin to flow towards Cork City and the sea. When you first approach the lake from Ballingeary direction it looks almost square but, in fact, it is almost a mile long and only about 300 yards wide.

Holy Island was the site of the 6th century monastery of St. Finbar. The present Church is just over a hundred years old in a style also seen in Cormac's Chapel on the Rock of Cashel. The head of St. Finbar crowns the elaborately carved doorway.

Near the Oratory is an enclosure that marks the site both of the monastery of St. Finbar and the retreat of Fr. Denis O'Mahony, a Priest of the Penal Era. The monastery of St. Finbar was probably of wattle and daub construction, so we don't know the precise location. However, the inscription on the cross, in Latin, Irish and English reads: Here stood in the 6th century, the cell of St. Finbarr, first Bishop of Cork." Nearby, a slab bears the inscription: "This place of devotion was dedicated unto Almighty God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and unto St. Finn Bary in the seventeenth century of our Lord, by the Rev. Denis O'Mahony, who after the erecting of these buildings, made them his residence till the end of his religious days in this world..." Just to the east of this enclosure is a ruined chapel that appears to have been the chapel used by Fr. O'Mahony. Fr. O'Mahony died in 1700 and was burried in a grave near the entrance to Holy Island. The Cork poet J.J. Callanan is also commemorated by a simple cross here. He wrote a poem on Gougane including the lines:

There is a green island in lone Gougane Barra
Where Allua of song rushes forth as an arrow.
In deep-valley'd Desmond - a thousand wild fountains,
Come down to that lake from their homes in the mountains.

The Lee leaves Gougane and flows east past Ballingeary and opens out into another lake, the famous Lough Allua. At Ballingeary, during the terrible days of the Black and Tans the forces of the British Crown would regularly harrass Mass-goers as they left. On 10 November, 1920 as they left the scene of the murder of an unarmed young man, they jeered to the Parish Priest, Fr. Donncha Ó Donnchú that "there's work for you back there". A month later in Dunmanway the Parish Priest Canon Magner was shot on the street in a revenge execution by a British Auxiliary called Harte.

Leaving Lough Allua, the Lee flows past Inchigeela. At Curraheen, about two miles from Inchigeela, on the right hand side of the road there is to be found another monument to the suffering of the Irish under the Penal Laws. A rough stone altar stands below a crag. A metal plate reads "Altar of Penal Times, Mass was said here 1640-1800". From here, the Lee flows towards Macroom, where the Castle once housed Archbishop Rinuccini, Papal Legate to the Catholic Confederacy of the 17th century, and enters the magnificent Gearagh, a sort of Cork Everglades.

To the east of the Gearagh is Carrigadrohid, where the castle stands guard on a stone outcrop over the bridge and the river. The castle was built by the MacCarthys of Muskerry. In April of 1649, during Cromwell's rampage through Ireland an officer of his forces named Broghill laid siege to the castle. When the castle wouldn't surrender he brought the Bishop of Ross, Dr. Boetius Egan, out from imprisonment in Macroom and stood the elderly Bishop before the castle and threatened to hang him if the castle would not surrender. Bishop Egan shouted to the defenders to hold out. Enraged by the Bishop's defiance but true to his word, Broghill hanged the Bishop of Ross there and then before their eyes. The castle held out but not for long. The castle fell to a simpler trick. Broghill ordered his forces to cut down trees of about the size of cannon and had them yoked to oxen and deployed around the castle. By this means, they forced the defenders to parlay.

A happier story of Carrigadrohid relates to Donal O'Sullivan who caught a leprechaun one day. The leprechaun shouted for him to look out for MacCarthaigh's bull that was charging down upon them. Donal turned to look and the leprechaun escaped. A year later, Donal caught him again in a bush near the river. This time the leprechaun cried out to Donal to look at MacCarthaigh's daughter coming up the path. Donal coundn't resist, turned to look and the leprechaun escaped. A third time Donal caught him and the leprechaun shouted in vain about bulls and boars and goats and girls but Donal held him fast and got the pot of gold, with which he bought the bull and the castle and married the daughter.

[UPDATE] Since I posted this, my attention has been drawn to a poem that refers to the incident in 1649 that I mentioned above. I reproduce it here:

By Dr. Madden
Author of the "Lives of the United Irishmen"

The tramp of the trooper is heard at Macroom;
The soldiers of Cromwell are spared from Clonmel,
And Broghill - the merciless Broghill - is come,
On a missionof murder which pleases him well.

the wailing of women, the wild ululu,
Dread tidings from cabin to cabin convey;
But loud though the plaints and the shrieks which ensue,
The war-cry is louder of men in array.

In the park of Macroom there is gleaming of steel,
And glancing of lightning in looks on that field,
And swelling of bosoms with patriotic zeal,
And clenching of hands on the weapons they wield.

MacEgan, a prelate like Ambrose of old;
Foresakes not his flock when the spoiler is near,
The post of the pastor's in front of the fold,
When the wolf's on the plain and there's rapine to fear.

The danger is come, and the fortune of war,
Inclines to the side of oppression once more;
The people are brave - but, they fall; and the star,
Of their destiny sets in the darkness of yore.

MacEgan survives in the Philistine hands,
Of the lords of the Pale, and his death is decreed;
But the sentence is stayed by Lord Broghill's commands,
And the prisoner is dragged to his presence with speed.

"To Carraig-an-Driochead this instant," he cried,
"Prevail on your people in garrison there,
To yield, and at once in our mercy confide,
And your life I will pledge you my honour to spare."

"Your mercy! Your honour!" the prelate replied,
"I well know the worth of : my duty I know,
Lead on to the castle, and there, by your side,
With the blessing of God, what is meet I will do."

The orders are given, the prisoner is led,
To the castle, and 'round him are menacing hoards:
Undaunted, approaching the walls, at the head,
Of the troopers of Cromwell, he utters these words:

"Beward of the cockatrices - trust not the wiles,
Of the serpent, for perfidy skulks in its folds!
Beware of Lord Broghill the day that he smiles!
His mercy is murder! - his word never holds!"

"Remember, 'tis writ in our annals of blood,
Our countrymen never relied on the faith,
Of truce or of treaty, but treason ensued -
And the issue of every delusion was death!"

Thus nobly the patriot prelate sustained,
The ancient renown of his chivalrous race,
And the last of old Eoghan's descendants obtained,
For the name of Ui-Mani new lustre and grace.

He died on the scaffold, in front of those walls,
Where the blackness of ruin is seen from afar;
And the gloom of its desolate aspect recalls,
The blackest of Broghill's achievements in war!

Thursday 24 September 2009

Support the Eucharistic Congress!

On the 80th Anniversary of THE Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 1932, the Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Dublin, Ireland. The Holy Father has announced the theme for the Congress will be:

"The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another".

In 1932 the Irish State issued a set of commemorative stamps to mark the occasion of the Congress, which was a time of immense grace for the newly independent Ireland.

As part of your preparation for the forthcoming Congress, I urge you to voice your support for the issuing of another set of commemorative stamps in 2012 to mark the 50th Eucharistic Congress and the 80th Anniversary of the Eucharistic Congress of 1932.

You can send your suggestion to:

Secretary of the Philatelic Advisory Committee,
An Post,
Ground Floor,
Dublin 1,

Or by e-mailing: pac@anpost.ie

You could also write to the Chairman of An Post, Mr. John Fitzgerald, or to the Chief Executive of An Post, Mr. Donal Connell, at:

An Post,
Ground Floor,
Dublin 1,

The general e-mail for An Post is: customer.services@anpost.ie.

God bless the work!

Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar!

Saturday 19 September 2009

Our Gaelic Christian Heritage (Part 2)

Grandson of High King Conn Cétchathach (Conn of the Hundred Battles), Cormac Mac Airt came to the High Kingship about the year AD 116 and is the most glorious of the High Kings of Tara. The works of learning, wisdom and jurisprudence attributed to him, the Psalter of Tara, the Seanchas Mór (at least in original form), and the Teagasc na Ríogh attest to cultural greatness of his reign, apart from the "fruit and fatness" of the land in his time.

Of greatest interest to us is that King Cormac was reputed to have rejected the superstitions of the Druids, refusing to worship the carvings, saying that the carver deserved greater worship still. His reign was brought to an end by a grave disfiguring injury - since such disfigurements excluded the sufferer from exercising Sovereignty among the ancient Irish. He lived for some time thereafter but, his final wish was to be buried, not at the pagan burying-place of Brugh na Bóinne, but at Ross na Ríogh. His wishes were disregarded but Providence intervened to fulfill them. Sir Samuel Ferguson's poem 'The Burial of King Cormac' relates the story thus:

"Crom Cruach and his sub-gods twelve,"
Said Cormac, "are but craven treene:
The axe that made them, haft and helve,
Had worthier of our worship been.

But He who made the tree to grow,
And hid in earth the iron stone,
And made the man with mind to know
The axe's use, is God alone."

Anon to priests of Crom was brought
(Where girded in their service dread
They ministered on red Moy Slaught)
Word of the words King Cormac said.

They loosed their curse against the king,
They cursed him in his flesh and bones
And daily in their mystic ring
They turned the maledictive stones.

Till, where at meat the monarch sate
Amid the revel and the wine,
He choked upon the food he ate
At Sletty, southward of the Boyne.

High vaunted then the priestly throng,
And far and wide they noised abroad
With trump and loud liturgic song
The praise of their avenging god.

But ere the voice was wholly spent
That priest and prince should still obey,
To awed attendants o'er him bent
Great Cormac gathered breath to say:

"Spread not the beds of Brugh for me,
When restless death-bed's use is done;
But bury me at Ross-na-ree,
And face me to the rising sun.

"For all the kings that lie in Brugh
Put trust in gods of wood and stone;
And 'twas at Ross that I first knew
One, Unseen, who is God alone.

"His glory lightens from the east,
His message soon shall reach our shore,
And idol-god and cursing priest
Shall plague us from Moy Slaught no more."

Dead Cormac on his bier they laid:
"He reigned a king for forty years;
And shame it were," his captains said,
"He lay not with his royal peers:

"His grandsire, Hundred Battles, sleeps
Serene in Brugh, and all around
Dead kings, in stone sepulchral keeps,
Protect the sacred burial ground.

"What though a dying man should rave
Of changes o'er the eastern sea,
In Brugh of Boyne shall be his grave,
And not in noteless Rossnaree."

Then northward forth they bore the bier,
And down from Sleithac's side they drew
With horseman and with charioteer,
To cross the fords of Boyne to Brugh."

There came a breath of finer air
That touched the Boyne with ruffling wings,
It stirred him in his sedgy lair
And in his mossy moorland springs.

And as the burial train came down
With dirge, and savage dolorous shows,
Across their pathway broad and brown,
The deep full-hearted river rose.

From bank to bank through all his fords,
'Neath blackening squalls he swelled and boiled,
And thrice the wond'ring gentile lords
Essay'd to cross, and thrice recoil'd.

Then forth stepped gray-haired warriors four;
They said: "Through angrier floods than these,
On link'd shield once our King we bore
From Dread-spear and the hosts of Deece;

"And long as loyal will holds good,
And limbs respond with helpful thews,
Nor flood nor fiend within the flood
Shall bar him of his burial dues."

With slanted necks they stooped to lift;
They heaved him up to neck and chin;
And, pair by pair, with footsteps swift,
Locked arm and shoulder, bore him in.

'Twas brave to see them leave the shore;
To mark the deepening surges rise,
And fall subdued in foam before
The tension of their striding thighs.

'Twas brave, when now a spear-cast out,
Breast-high the battling surges ran;
For eweight was great, and limbs were stout,
And loyal man put trust in man.

But ere they reached the middle deep,
Nor steadying weight of clay they bore,
Nor strain of sinewy limbs could keep
Their feet beneath the swerving four.

And now they slide and now they swim,
And now amid the blackening squall,
Gray locks afloat with clutchings grim,
They plunge around the floating pall.

While as a youth with practiced spear
Through justling crowds bears off the ring-
Boyne from their shoulders caught the bier,
And proudly bare away the King!"

At morning on the grassy marge
Of Ross-na-ree the corpse was found,
And shepherds at their early charge,
Entombed it in the peaceful ground.

A tranquil spot : a hopeful sound
Comes from the ever-youthful stream,
And still on daisied mead and mound
The dawn delays with tenderer beam.

Round Cormac, Spring renews her buds;
In march perpetual by his side,
Down come the earth-fresh April floods,
And up the sea-fresh salmon glide;

And life and time rejoicing run
From age to age their wonted way;
But still he waits the risen Sun,
For still 'tis only dawning Day.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Saint Ninian of Cloncurry

Dr. Comerford includes the following information on Saint Ninian of Cloncurry, in the modern Parish of Kilcock:

"The Saint chiefly connected with Cloncurry is Ninine, or Monine, whose feast is marked in our calendars at the 16th September. Thus the Martyrology of Tallaght has the entry: "Monenn Cluana Conaire;" and the Martyrology of Donegal, "Maoineann, Bishop of Cluain Conaire, in the north of Ui Failan." Some authorities suppose this saint to have been Ninidh Lamoidhan, or of the pure hand, who attended Saint Brigid when dying; but the weight of authority seems to be in favour of St. Ninian, so celebrated as a missioner in Scotland, in the fourth century; and Archbishop Moran unhesitatingly adopts this opinion. His Grace thus writes in his Irish Saints in Great Britain, p.133:

"It was amongst the Gallgaedhels of Galloway that another ornament of the British Church, St. Ninian, was born, about the year 360. Of this family only two traditions have come down to us: one is the tradition of Scotland, that Ninian was nephew of St. Martin of Tours; the other is a tradition of the Irish Church, preserved by Ussher, that it was in compliance with a request made to him by his mother, that, in his old age, he set out to associate himself with St. Palladius in the conversion of Ireland. We might, perhaps, from this fact, conjecture that she herself belonged to the Gaelic race. Being arrived at the age of manhood, Ninian proceeded to Rome. Alaric had not as yet knocked at the gates of the devoted city. In the full majesty of imperial sway, it was still at the golden height of its wealth and material splendour; and its palaces and forums and public monuments displayed all the profusion of magnificence with which the plunder of the world had enriched the proud mistress of nations. Pope Damasus then ruled the Church of God, and, with the blessings of peace, religion smiled on the seven hills. Silver and gold and precious marbles enriched the Basilicas devoted to Christian worship; the shrines of the martyrs were adorned with the most costly gems; the learning of St. Jerome and St. Ambrose added lustre to its sacred teaching, and Rome was, even then, not only the source of spiritual authority, but also the great centre of religious life, and of the love and affection of the Christian world.

For about twenty years St. Ninian lived in Rome... Being at length consecrated Bishop, he set out for his native Galloway, to merit by his sanctity and missionary labours the title of its chief apostle. On his homeward journey he remained for some time at Marmoutiers, to enjoy the heavenly lessons of wisdom of its great founder, St. Martin of Tours; and Aelred, in his Life of our Saint, mentions that he brought with him from the monastery some skilled masons, by whose aid he desired to erect in his native district a Church on the model of those which he had seen in Italy and France. He chose for its site a sheltered spot on the southern promontory of Galloway… The Church was built of chiselled stone, a style of edifice, as Bede states, till then unknown in N. Britain, from which circumstance it became known as Candida Casa, and in the British language it was called Whitherne, or the White House, which name, Whithorn, it retains to the present day. We learn from Ven. Bede that whilst engaged in erecting this Church, Ninian received intelligence of St. Martin’s death, and so convinced was he of the sanctity of that holy man, that he at once chose him for his patron in his missionary labours, and dedicated the Church to God under his invocation. St. Martin most probably died in the year 402. I need not dwell upon the apostolic labours of St. Ninian. He penetrated into the Pictish territory far beyond the British frontier, and, at his preaching, as Bede attests, many of the southern Picts forsook idolatry and became fervent children of God. He was remarkable, like most of the early Celtic Saints, for his austerities… Like St. Martin, he loved to withdraw himself, from time to time, from the busy world in which he laboured, to renew his spirit by meditation on heavenly things. The cave is still pointed out on the sea-shore of Wigtonshire in Galloway, whither he was wont to retire. It is placed high up in a white lofty precipitous range of rocks, against which the impetuous waves of the stormy Irish sea unceasingly spend their fury. The cave is open to the winds and spray, but runs inward about twenty feet. At the mouth it is twelve feet high and about as many in breadth, and it is only accessible by climbing from rock to rock."

The death of this saint is marked by Scottish writers as having occurred in the year 432; his remains were interred in St. Martin’s Church, and were honoured by many miracles. St. Ninian is commemorated in our Irish calendars on the 16th of September, under the name of Monennio, and it is a very ancient tradition, preserved in the Festology of St. Aengus and other authentic records, that a few years before his death he came to Ireland to aid Palladius, and erected at Cluain Conaire, now Cloncurry, in the north of the present County of Kildare, an oratory and religious institution which reproduced in miniature the great Church and Monastery of Whitherne. Bishop Forbes gives a list of more than sixty Churches, dedicated to him throughout Scotland; and Chalmers, in his Caledonia, writes that "the name of St. Ninian was venerated in every district of Scotland, and in the northern and western Isles."

The Four Masters record the death of an abbot of this Monastery of St. Ninian, in the year 869: "A.D. 869, Colga, son of Maetuile, abbot and anchorite of Cluain-Conaire-Tomain, died." As in the case of Whitherne, so also in that of Cloncurry, St. Ninian appears to have dedicated the Church to St. Martin of Tours conjointly with the B. Virgin."

St. Ninian of Cloncurry, pray for us!

Saturday 12 September 2009

Vienna 1683

Today, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, marks the day, a mere three and a quarter centuries ago, when Christendom breathed a collective sigh of relief at the victory of the Holy League before the gates of Vienna. With this victory, the Holy League had finally halted the second Islamic pincer to enslave Europe.

The first pincer had swept across the whole of Christian North Africa in little more than a generation, from about 632. From North Africa, they advanced steadily into Europe through Iberia. The victory of Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732 checked the Arab advance but it was not until 1492 that Arab forces were finally expelled under the Catholic Monarchs of the Spains.

The second line of advance was contemporary with the first. It swept away the Christian powers of the Near East as it had swept away Christian North Africa and swept them away, never, it seems, to return. For some time, the Crusades checked the relentless tide. However, in 1453, while the Arabs still held parts of Iberia, the Ottoman Turks, already masters of Asia Minor, had captured Constantinople, the capital of the Christian East. Throughout the Mediterranean, nowhere was entirely safe from raids by one Islamic group or another.

With the fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans advanced seadily into the heart of Europe from the East, just as the Arabs had done from the South centuries earlier. Would they succeed now where their co-religionists had failed before? Christian cities fell like dominoes: Belgrade in 1521; Rhodes in 1522; and Buda(pest) in 1526 for the first time. Vienna was beseiged by the Turks in 1526. The Turk would be defeated again at Malta in 1565 and Lepanto in 1571 but Vienna remained a front-line City for more than a century. This is the scene as the Battle for Vienna commences in 1683. In truth, it was a battle for the future of Europe and the survival of Christendom.

The city was invested on 14th July, 1683. Graf von Starhemberg, the Governor of the city, refused to capitulate, which was a wise move, given the wholesale slaughter of the citzens of Perchtoldsdorf when they had surrendered a few days earlier.

Imperial forces under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine, were successfully harrying the forward guard of the beseiging Turks when Jan III Sobieski, elective King of Poland, responded to the appeals from Pope and Emperor to lend his aid to the beleagured Christian forces in Austria. He set out for Vienna in August, his forces marching behind the banner of the Blessed Virgin. Passing by the Sanctuary of Our Lady in Czestochowa, they implored Our Lady's help and blessing. Writing to the bishops of Poland, Pope Pius XII recalled the supplications of Sobieski to Mary at the Sanctuary:

"To the same Heavenly Queen, on Clear Mountain, the illustrious John Sobieski, whose eminent valour freed Christianity from the attacks of its old enemies, confided himself." [Cum iam lustri abeat, 1951]

The Polish army crossed the Danube on 6th September. The massed forces of the Holy League, under the flag of the Crown of Our Lady, identical to that used today for the European Union, assembled on the Kahlenberg Heights above Vienna. A key figure at this point was Friar Mark d'Aviano, confessor to Emperor Leopold I. He preached passionately to the men of the Holy League in his capacity as Papal Legate, ensuring that the Holy League remained united and persevered to victory. After Mass early on the morning of 12th September, 1683, the forces of the Holy League swept down upon the foe. In the aftermath of the victory, the Holy League swept the Turks before them out of Hungary, regaining Buda(pest) in 1686.

In 1513, Pope Julius II had granted a local indult to celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary to the diocese of Cuenta in Spain. It was assigned a proper Office. With the reform of the Breviary undertaken by Pope St. Pius V, the feast was abolished, only to be reinstituted by his successor, Pope Sixtus V. The feast spread to the Archdiocese of Toledo by 1622 and, eventually, to all of Spain and to the Kingdom of Naples.

In thanksgiving for the victory, Blessed Innocent XI extended the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary to the Universal Church, it then being celebrated upon the Sunday after the 8th of September, the feast of Our Lady's Nativity. Pope St. Pius X, by a decree of 8th July, 1908, fixed the feast upon the day of the victory itself.

Blessed be the Most Holy Name of Mary!

Sunday 6 September 2009

Twelfth Monthly Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

The twelfth monthly Mass took place this afternoon in Cill Mhuire, less than 25 minutes late. This month, Mass took place on the first Sunday of the month and not on the second Sunday, as is more usual. It seems that subsequent engagements rate higher in the hierarchy of priorities.

However, the change of weekend seems to have made no significant difference to the attendance. The attendance of 13, including two young children, was only joint second lowest with February and July. Unhappily, if anybody else is unhappy about it, the attendance of local people was the joint lowest with June.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Our Gaelic Christian Heritage (Part 1)

The various Annals of the Gaelic Race attest to the historic devotion of the Irish to Christ. However, if it is an Irish claim worthy of mention is should be an extraordinary one. Such a claim is the claim made for Conor Mac Nessa, King of Ulster about the time of Our Lord and, incidentally, associated with the famous Cattle Raid of Cooley. His death is recounted in the Book of Leinster and referred to in O'Curry's, Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History

King Conor witnessed, it was said, the pathetic fallacy of the Earth shaken and darkened at the death of Our Lord upon Calvary. He understood through the prism of Natural Religion from Bacrach, his Druid, its true significance. At the cost of his own life, struggled to defend the God-Man.

That a certain knowledge of the supernatural order might also be given to mere pagans is a strange idea but not an impossible one. The Oracle at Delphi and even Virgil in his Eclogues, had some intimation of the Incarnation. Teste David cum Sybilla, as the Dies Irae puts it. That Mankind, who had once walked in the Garden with God and who had been promised a Redeemer as they were expelled, might retain some notion of the Truth is not inconceivable.

The poem of T.D. Sullivan recounts the story as follows:

The Death of King Conor Mac Nessa


'Twas a day full of sorrow for Ulster when Conor Mac Nessa went forth
To punish the clansmen of Connaught who dared to take spoil from the North;
For his men brought him back from the battle scarce better than one that was dead,
With the brain-ball of Mesgedra buried two-thirds of its depth in his head.
His royal physician bent o'er him, great Fingen, who often before
Stanched the war-battered bodies of heroes, and built them for battle once more,
And he looked on the wound of the monarch, and heark'd to his low breathed sighs,
And he said, "In the day when that missile is loosed from his forehead, he dies.


"Yet long midst the people who love him King Conor Mac Nessa may reign,
If always the high pulse of passion be kept from his heart and his brain;
And for this I lay down his restrictions:--no more from this day shall his place
Be with armies, in battles, or hostings, or leading the van of the chase;
At night when the banquet is flashing, his measure of wine must be small,
And take heed that the bright eyes of woman be kept from his sight above all;
For if heart-thrilling joyance or anger awhile o'er his being have power,
The ball will start forth from his forehead, and surely he dies in that hour."


Oh! woe for the valiant King Conor, struck down from the summit of life,
While glory unclouded shone round him, and regal enjoyment was rife-
Shut out from his toils and his duties, condemned to ignoble repose,
No longer to friends a true helper, no longer a scourge to his foes!
He, the strong-handed smiter of champions, the piercer of armor and shields,
The foremost in earth-shaking onsets, the last out of blood-sodden fields-
The mildest, the kindest, the gayest, when revels ran high in his hall-
Oh, well might his true-hearted people feel gloomy and sad for his fall!


The princes, the chieftains, the nobles, who met, to consult at his board,
Whispered low when their talk was of combats, and wielding the spear and the sword:
The bards from their harps feared to waken the full-pealing sweetness of song,
To give homage to valor or beauty, or praise to the wise and the strong;
The flash of no joy-giving story made cheers or gay laughter resound,
Amid silence constrained and unwonted the seldom-filled wine-cup went round;
And, sadder to all who remembered the glories and joys that had been,
The heart-swaying presence of woman not once shed its light on the scene.


He knew it, he felt it, and sorrow sunk daily more deep in his heart;
He wearied of doleful inaction, from all his loved labors apart.
He sat at his door in the sunlight, sore grieving and weeping to see
The life and the motion around him, and nothing so stricken as he.
Above him the eagle went wheeling, before him the deer galloped by,
And the quick-legged rabbits went skipping from green glades and burrows a-nigh,
The song-birds sang out from the copses, the bees passed on musical wing,
And all things were happy and busy, save Conor Mac Nessa the king!


So years had passed over, when, sitting mid silence like that of the tomb,
A terror crept through him as sudden the noon-light was blackened with gloom.
One red flare of lighting blazed brightly, illuming the landscape around,
One thunder-peal roared through the mountains, and rumbled and crashed under ground;
He heard the rocks bursting asunder, the trees tearing up by the roots,
And loud through the horrid confusion the howling of terrified brutes.
From the halls of his tottering palace came screamings of terror and pain,
And he saw crowding thickly around him the ghosts of the foes he had slain!


And as soon as the sudden commotion that shuddered through nature had ceased,
The king sent for Barach, his Druid, and said: "Tell me truly, O priest,
What magical arts have created this scene of wild horror and dread?
What has blotted the blue sky above us, and shaken the earth that we tread?
Are the gods that we worship offended? what crime or what wrong has been done?
Has the fault been committed in Erin, and how may their favor be won?
What rites may avail to appease them? what gifts on their altars should smoke?
Only say, and the offering demanded we lay by your consecrate oak."


"O king," said the white-bearded Druid, "the truth unto me has been shown,
There lives but one God, the Eternal; far up in high Heaven is His throne.
He looked upon men with compassion, and sent from His kingdom of light
His Son, in the shape of a mortal, to teach them and guide them aright.
Near the time of your birth, O King Conor, the Savior of mankind was born,
And since then in the kingdoms far eastward He taught, toiled, and prayed, till this morn,
When wicked men seized Him, fast bound Him with nails to a cross, lanced His side,
And that moment of gloom and confusion was earth's cry of dread when He died.


"O king, He was gracious and gentle, His heart was all pity and love,
And for men He was ever beseeching the grace of His Father above;
He helped them, He healed them, He blessed them, He labored that all might attain
To the true God's high kingdom of glory, where never comes sorrow or pain;
But they rose in their pride and their folly, their hearts filled with merciless rage,
That only the sight of His life-blood fast poured from His heart could assuage:
Yet while on the cross-beams uplifted, His body racked, tortured, and riven,
He prayed--not for justice or vengeance, but asked that His foes be forgiven."


With a bound from his seat rose King Conor, the red flush of rage on his face,
Fast he ran through the hall for his weapons, and snatching his sword from its place,
He rushed to the woods, striking wildly at boughs that dropped down with each blow,
And he cried: "Were I midst the vile rabble, I'd cleave them to earth even so!
With the strokes of a high king of Erinn, the whirls of my keen-tempered sword,
I would save from their horrible fury that mild and that merciful Lord.
"His frame shook and heaved with emotion; the brain-ball leaped forth from his head,
And commending his soul to that Savior, King Conor Mac Nessa fell dead.

Annual General Assembly 2009

The Annual General Assembly 2009 met in an air of mourning. One of our founder-members died just a few days ago and the prayers of the meeting were offered by the eleven members present for the repose of her soul.

After the opening prayers and the election of a minute keeper, the Convenor's Report outlined the practical state of the Association under several headings: Advancement of the cause of the Latin Mass in Kildare and Leighlin; Mobilizing souls in the cause of the Latin Mass; the Holy Year of St. Paul and the Holy Year for Priests; Growth in Membership; Blogs and Publications.

Then Mario Corrigan of Kildare County Council gave an excellent talk on the four historic abbeys of Kildare Town: St. Brigid's double monastery/Cathedral; the Black Abbey; the White Abbey; and the Grey Abbey. He began by showing the geographical importance of Kildare and then by looking at the development, first, of the Brigidine Ecclesiastical City and then the Medieval Norman City centred on the Cathedral and surrounded to the West, South West and South East by the three great Abbeys (and to the East by the Castle). He brought us through the history of each, only the Carmelites of the White Abbey being still active, concluding with the present-day buildings that we will see. It is clear that the Ecclesiastical City of Kildare is a major element of our Gaelic Christian Heritage.

Following the Litany of Loreto, we received a report of the finances of the Association and appointed two delegates to represent the Association at the General Assembly of the International Una Voce Federation in Rome in November. Nearly a dozen members intend to make a pilgrimage to Rome to coincide with the General Assembly.

After a few other points of business, the meeting concluded with prayers to Our Lady, St. Joseph and our Guardian Angels and refreshments.

Friday 4 September 2009

Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost

A Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost was offered for Priests this evening in Cill Mhuire, Ballymany, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, to honour the Holy Year for Priests and as a spiritual preparation for the Annual General Assembly of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association.

The Mass was offered by the Reverend Father Desmond Flanagan, O.Carm., who spoke briefly to the congregation about the spirit in which they should attend the General Assembly. He said that we're all inclined to think that our own view is the only correct view but that we should listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost coming through the voices and views of others. He also encouraged anyone who did not attend Mass regularly to do so and he announced the times of Masses in Cill Mhuire. Fr. Flanagan also announced that Bishop Moriarty had granted the Plenary Indulgence for the Holy Year to all who attended this Mass under the usual conditions and the special conditions that he listed.

A full range of traditional latin and vernacular hymns (Hail Redeemer King Divine, Salve Regina, O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo, Soul of My Saviour, Holy God We Praise Thy Name) complimented the common of the Mass (de Angelis).

The congregation was the smallest of any of the Masses organised by St. Conleth's CHA. 35 people sat in the body of the Church and the Celebrant and two servers made a total of 38 present. 6 p.m. on a Friday evening isn't an easy time to attend Mass. After Mass, Holy Water that Fr. Flanagan had blessed in the traditional way was distributed to those who attended.

The Annual General Assembly followed Mass. The next Mass for the Year of Priests will be at 2 p.m. on Hallowe'en (31 October) in Rathangan.