Wednesday 31 March 2010


Up until the Easter Triduum, the texts of the Masses and Offices of Holy Week are not noticably different from those of the rest of Lent. However, it has long been a custom to celebrate the early morning Offices of Matins and Lauds of the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Holy Week on the afternoon before. Those Offices are known as Tenebrae or Darkness.

They seem to be a wake for the three days that Our Lord spent in the tomb. They evoke in the Christian something of the anguish of that first Holy Week, filled with betrayal and confusion. As the psalms are completed, the 15 candles are extinguished, one by one, until only a single candle remains. This candle represents Christ. It is taken down while the congregation makes a thunderous noise in remberance of the moment of Christ's death. The loss of these evocative ceremonies in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, or at least their loss throughout the greater part of the Church, is one of the greatest losses to the Christian Faithful in the recent reform of the Roman Liturgy.

Our first clip is of Tomas Luis de Victoria's setting of the Offices of Holy Week. It is the most familiar polyphonic setting of Tenebrae, perhaps because of the completeness of the text, which was first published in 1585. As a composer of the Tridentine era, the emphasis he gives to the text, in combination with the musical setting, is striking and one of the keys to the impact of his composition. Victoria kept strictly to the text in terms of repetitions and draws out, by means of colour and number of voices, the meaning and the proper impact of the words.

The second clip is the second responsory after the second lesson of the second nocturn in the 1680 composition of Marc-Antoine Charpentier of the Office of Holy Thursday for use at the Abbaye-aux-Bois. While the presentation of the libretto, the text of the Office, still has a directness, we can sense that, a century later than Victoria, the need for mere display in terms of music has already begun to appear, even while the composer must still bow to the requirements of the liturgical text.

The third clip is part of Francois Couperin's 1714 setting of one of the Lessons of the Office of Spy Wednesday for use in the Abbey of Longchamps. In contradistinction to the first two clips, which are austere and relatively simple and direct in sound, Couperin's composition is more florid and senuous. This reflects the change from a Renaissance to a Baroque style. The text of the Lamentations of Jeremiah deplore the destruction of Jerusalem, a symbol of the betrayal, abandonment and Crucifixion of Christ.

Finally, we have two clips of the service itself from Blackfriars in Oxford. The service is performed by Dominicans who, in the first clip sing the preces on Maunda Thursday and, in the second clip sing two responsories of Matins and then the Benedictus of Lauds. You will see the hearse of candles in the centre of the Sanctuary. For those who might question the cantors having their backs to the Tabernacle in the second clip, the Blessed Sacrament has been removed to the Altar of Repose.

Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!

Saturday 27 March 2010

Mount Melleray Retreat

Members of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association made a retreat in Mount Melleray Abbey again this year. The theme chosen for the retreat was Lectio Divina, to take account of the fact that the Cistercian Abbey where the retreat was being held follows the Rule of St. Benedict (Chapter 48), which gives Lectio Divina an important place in its rule of life, along with Liturgical Prayer and manual labour. Mount Melleray Abbey is situated in the lea of the Knockmealdown Mountains, just to the north of Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. It has been the home of monks of the Strict Observance of the Cistercian Order, known as Trappists, since 1832. The foundation stone of the Monastery was laid on St. Bernard's Day, 20th August, 1833.

"First the tower, austere and massive, gleaming white against the sun,
With its crown of brazen crosses all aflame,
Rose above the circling pine-woods; then the gables, one by one,
To the field of my delighted vision came."

"Now the whole monastic city lay unshrouded to my view,
As a picture on a screen in spendour thrown,
Every snowy arch and angle pointing upward to the blue,
An ecstatic Benedicite in stone."

"Earth's cocoon of light and air,
Wondering Angels peering through,
Find reflections here and there,
Of their home beyond the Blue."

The Abbey Church is in Gothic style and cruciform in plan. Although extended, it follows mainly the lines of the original chapel built by the first community of Cistercian monks. The foundation stone for the new Church was laid by his Eminence John Cardinal McRory on the occasion of the centenary celebration. The Public Church and Monastic Church are the main elements of the magnificent Church-building project undertaken under Dom Celsus O'Connell, O.C.S.O., seventh Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray. The foundation stones were laid on 17th April, 1933, only twelve days after Dom Celsus was elected at Lord Abbot and a few months before the Abbey celebrated its centenary. The Monastic Church, the Church where the monks of Mount Melleray Abbey celebrate the Divine Office every day, was completed and solemnly blessed in November, 1940, but it wasn't until August of 1952, the 120th Anniversary of Mount Melleray, that the Church was solemnly consecrated. Prominent in the monastic Church, as is the custom in all Cistercian churches, was a massive crucifix suspended over the nave and containing relics of St. Bernard and many Irish saints, now, unhappily, removed. The smaller suspended crucifix in the Public Church remains.

The east window seen below is the work of the Harry Clarke studio. The central panel represents Christ the King crowning Our Lady Assumed into Heaven. Each evening at the Office of Compline the lights of the Church are extinguished and, according to Cistercian tradition, the figure of Our Lady is illuminated for the singing of the Salve Regina. To the right of the central panel are St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Carthage of Lismore, patron of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, where Mount Melleray is found, and to the far right are St. Robert, one of the three founders of the Cistercian Order, and St. Patrick of Ireland. To the left of the central panel are St. Brigid of Kildare and St. Columba and to the far left are St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church and the father of Cistercian monasticism, and St. Malachy of Armagh, who invited St. Bernard to send Cistercian monks to make their first foundation in Ireland.

"...that marvellous melody in whose haunting cadence all the immortal aspirations and emotions of humanity seem to struggle for expression..."

The Consecration of the Monastic Church was carried out by the Ordinary of the Diocese, Bishop Coholan of Waterford and Lismore beginning at 8 a.m. on 20th. The Public Church was consecrated contemporaneously, with Dom Benignus Hickey, O.C.S.O., Abbot of New Mellifont, consecrating the High Altar. During the consecration festival from 20th August to 29th August, 1952, well over 100,000 people visited Mount Melleray, an echo, surely, of the great occasion that was the consecration of the first Cistercian Church in Ireland, at Mellifont in Co. Louth. Mellifont Abbey was founded in 1142, with St. Christian Ó Connarchy as first Abbot. The consecration of the Church, the largest in Ireland at the time, was attended in state by the High King, Murtach Ó Loughlin, together with the flower of the nobility, including MacMurrough, as yet "guiltless of his country's blood." St. Christian, by this time Bishop of Lismore and Papal Legate, presided at the consecration, another direct link, through the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, to the Abbey at Mount Melleray. Gelasius, Archbishop of Armagh, was principal consecrator, assisted by 17 Bishops.

At Mount Melleray in 1952, the Abbot General of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, Dom Gabriel Sortais, was liturgically received on the morning of 20th August and His Excellency, the President of Ireland, Séan T. Ó Ceallaigh and Mrs. Ó Ceallaigh were given a liturgical reception that evening. From noon on Thursday, 21st, until Friday, 29th, the law of enclosure was suspended to permit ladies to enter the precincts of the Monastery. On 21st August, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop O'Hara, sang Pontifical Mass. On Sunday, 24th, Dom Celsus O'Connell, Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray celebrated Pontifical High Mass in the open air next to the Public Church. On the final day of the festival, Pontifical Vespers in the open air were followed by Benediction and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the grounds of the Monastery and was brought back to the High Altar of the Monastic Church for the Office of Compline. The conclusion of the festival was the turning of the key in the lock of the enclosure by the Lord Abbot.

During the course of the retreat conferences, Father McCarthy said that all Catholics should take the words of Pope Benedict XVI seriously when he said: "I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart. If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it - a new spiritual springtime." He said that the starting point for any Lectio divina was the Divinity of Christ. He added that the aim was not to obtain some kind of personal magisterium on the meaning of S. Scripture but rather to converse with God.

Fr. McCarthy introduced the retreatants to the words of Guigo II, the twelfth-century prior of Grande Chartreuse, and spoke about the four elements of Lectio divina: Lectio, to read the Scriptures; Meditatio, to meditate upon them and to settle upon some element that strikes one particularly; Oratio, to pray, the intimate dialogue of which the Pope speaks; and Contemplatio, to contemplate upon all the elements.

Each day was begun with Mass in the Gregorian Rite and concluded with devotions and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the traditional manner. The retreat began on the feast of the Annunciation, carried on through the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, and concluded on the Saturday of Passion Week.

The Abbey Guest House accommodated the retreatants throughout and gave direct access to the Public Church, dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint Philomena. It was once the National Shrine to Saint Philomena, although her statue was removed when her name was removed from the Roman Calendar. The Guest House formed part of the older monastery complex.

The interior of the Public Church has five bays consisting of aisles on either side and double lancets above. The Sanctuary is decorated in mosaic, both in nave and aisles. The walls surrounding the side aisles being decorated with adoring Angels. The walls of the Sanctuary having the instruments of the Passion in quatrefoils on the lateral walls, the east wall having the Sacred Heart represented to the Gospel side of the east window and St. Joseph to the Epistle side, each having the appropriate monogram in the quatrefoil beneath.

Perhaps one of the most interesting of all sights in Mount Melleray is the Miraculous Bin which is kept in the farm-yard near the Monastery garden. A long wooden structure about 3 metres long by 1 1/2 metres wide by 1 metre deep, it is regarded the greatest wonder of Mount Melleray. On the cover of the bin is a small notice which tells the story as follows: "DURING THE FAMINE OF 1840, THE COMMUNITY AND MORE THAN SEVENTY POOR PEOPLE WERE FED DAILY WITH MEAL STORED IN THE BIN. AFTER THREE MONTHS THE SUPPLY WAS FOUND UNDIMINISHED." The story is one well known to visitors to Mount Melleray. The then Lord Abbot, Dom Vincent Ryan, left instructions that nobody was to be turned away from the monastery hungry during his absence, which was to last three months, beginning just after Easter. The stock of Indian meal in the bin was found to be undiminished upon his return, although the daily measure required for 100 monks and the more than 70 poor people was taken from it each day. Dom Vincent's written and signed statement attesting to the incident is still extant: "Who will not here admire and praise the wonderful dispensation of Divine Providence. A poor and numerous community of religious men, located on the side of a barren mountain, improvided with funds, resources, or human means necessary to support existence, labouring incessantly in the arduous and painful enterprise of reclaiming its stubborn and neglected soil, depending on the casual charity of humane friends, are thus enabled, I will presume to say miraculously, not only to maintain their own existence, but to feed and preserve the lives of nearly five thousand of their fellow creatures during a period of no ordinary calamity and distress!"

The east window of the Public Church is in two levels, above, in the central panel is Our Lady assumed into Heaven flanked by Angels, while below are, from left to right, St. Brigid, St. Malachy of Armagh (who introduced the Cistercian Order to Ireland), St. Bernard of Clairvaux, friend of St. Malachy, greeting him, and St. Patrick. This is a window of old associations. Mention of St. Malachy and St. Bernard draws the mind back to Mellifont and the first Irish foundation of the Cistercians. The seven main panels of this window were originally in the east window of the old Monastic Church.

To the East of the Monastic Church is 'God's Acre,' the monks' grave-yard, where generations of Cistercians lie. The three High Crosses in the foreground (and another two in the distance) mark the graves of the Lords Abbot of Mount Melleray.

"To my ears as thus I pondered came the sweet and soothing sounds,
Of the Abbey chime, from workshop and from cell,
From the field and from the forest, from the grange's distant bounds,
Calling all to choir, for that's the Office Bell."

If you would like to explore a monastic vocation in Mount Melleray Abbey, the Novice Master of Mount Melleray Abbey can be contacted by letter at:

Revd. Novice Master, O.C.S.O.,
Mount Melleray Abbey,
Co. Waterford,

Or by 'phone at:

+353 58 54404

Or by e-mail by clicking here.

Thursday 25 March 2010

The Annunciation - the Waffle day

The day of the annunciation is the feast day that commemorates the Virgin Mary finding out from the angel that she is going to have a Son - the Son of God. This day falls, in most reasonably religious countries, on the 25th of March; in Sweden, however, it falls on the Sunday between the 22nd and the 28th of March - like so many other holidays in Sweden it is celebrated on the nearest weekend. One might say, if one is feeling sinister, that the Swedes like to save religious feasts for the weekends, keeping that sort of thing out of their every day life. One might not even be completely wrong in saying so.

In Sweden, the Holy Virgin's Annunciation Day or Marie Bebådelsedag is usually called Våffeldagen (Waffle day). The reason is, according to some, a sort of vulgarisation of the term r fru dagen (literally day of Our Lady). This has the good result that Swedish people mark the Annunciation Day by eating waffles. Most do not really do it to honour the Holy Virgin anymore but it is another way that Swedish customs deliciously keep religious festivals alive. Frasvåfflor, the kind of crispy waffles that are eaten in Sweden are crisp (as you'd expect) and eaten with sweet things like jam and cream. Sometimes this will include lingonberries or cloudberries or other berries that will start to appear with the start of Spring. They can also be served with lemon juice and sugar just like Irish Pancake Tuesday pancakes.

At one level, the Swedish waffle is like the pancake of Shrove Tuesday. It is the occasion when we traditionally would have finished the winter chores and begin the spring/summer with waffles. Incidentally, the Swedish, Irish and English words for pancake are almost identical... just one more Swedish contribution to world culture ;-)

In English, the feast is called Lady Day and was one of the 'quarter days' of the English Calendar. The reason that it is Lady Day (like Lady Chapel) and not Lady's Day is because it is in the old genitive form that no longer exists in modern English.

So, in the Gloucester Chronicle it reads: "Bituene vur leuedi day þe late misselmasse day, Þis folc bisette kaunterbury" and even in the Norwich Chronicle they seem to be a bit like the Swedish: "If our lady day falle on yt moneday yan ye forseid eleccion shal be holden ye werkday þan next folwyng" but then you also have examples like the Chronicle of Nottingham where they use the name Annunciation: "at ye Anounsiacion of oure Lady and Mechelmes". I like Middle English. It makes my spelling look good!

In fact, the Annunciation was the first day of the year in several senses. In the religious sense it is the moment when the Redemption began. In the 'secular' world, it was actually the first day in England up until the time when the calendar of Pope Gregory XIII took over from the Julian Calendar. Some countries still have their tax year beginning around the start of April as a vestige of this and where the quarter days are still used they reflect a calendar year that begins at the end of March. In Tess of the d'Urbervilles it is mentioned as the day when the workers hired at Candlemas move on to their next job.

In Des Hannon's post last year we learned that the Irish call it the Feast Day of Mary in Spring or Lá Fhéile Muire san Earrach.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

List of Speakers for Fota III

We have been asked by St. Colman's Society for Catholic Liturgy to post the following. We do so with great pleasure:

St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce the provisional list of speakers for its third International Liturgy Conference which will be held from 10-12 July 2010. The subject of the Conference is Benedict XVI and Sacred Music.

Further information and registration enquiries should be sent to

The Conference will be chaired by Professor D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D., member of the Ratzinger Schulerkreis, Sursum corda: An Introduction to Ratzinger's Theology of Sacred Music

1. Dr. Andreas Andreopoulos, Unversity of Lampeter, Wales, Music in the Orthodox Liturgy

2. Fr. Sven Leo Conrad of the Fraternity of St. Peter, Germany, Joseph Ratzinger and Johannes Overath: the intellectual connection

3. Don Alberto Domini, professor of Sacred Music at the seminary of Brescia, Italy, Gregorian Chant in the Liturgy according to the mind of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI

4. Thomas Lacôte of the Conservatoire de Paris, France, Liturgical texts, rites and symbols and contemporary musical creation: an example for the Feast of the Dedication of a Church

5. Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, Cong. Orat., consultor to the office of Pontifical Ceremonies, Rome
Defining Criteria for Sacred Music: from Benedict XIV to Benedict XVI

6. Frank Lawrence of the Department of Music, University College Dublin, Ireland
The Spirit of the Liturgy: Gregorian Chant as mystagogy and exegesis.

7. Kerry McCarthy of Duke University, USA, Listening to William Byrd

8. James McMillan, composer, Scotland, Spirit of the Liturgy: rejoice in tradition and embrace the future.

9. Ite O’Donovan, directress of the Lassus Scholars, Dublin, Ireland, Choral music in the celebration of the Liturgy, a musical heritage of inestimable value, a tradition to be fostered and protected...

10. Fr. Stéphane Quessard of the diocese of Bourges, France, Towards a Renewal of Sacred Music

11. Rev. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B., founder of theInstitute of Sacred Music, Archdiocese of Saint Louis, U. S.A., Pope Benedict XVI on the Psalms in the Liturgy

Monday 22 March 2010

Solemn High Mass for the Holy Father’s intentions

We have just been asked to post the following text, which we do with great pleasure.

“St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy will hold its annual Solemn High Mass, for the Holy Father’s intentions, on Easter Tuesday, 6 April 2010, at Sts. Peter and Paul’s, Cork City, at 11 am.

The proper texts for the Mass will sung in Gregorian by members of the Lassus Scholars, Dublin, under the direction of Miss Ite O’Donovan. The ordinary of the Mass will Orlando de Lassus’ Missa Paschalis with motets for the Easter season. C.M. Widor’s Toccata will also figure among the organ pieces.

Members of St. Colman’s Society are encouraged to attend this Mass which is also open to the general public.

The Society wishes to thank Fr. Patrick McCarthy, Parish Priest of Sts Peter and Paul’s, for having made the use of the church available for this Mass for the Holy Father’s intentions”.

St. Colman Mac Lenine pray for us!

Saturday 20 March 2010

Saint Lachteen and the Boggera Mountains

In a previous post I wrote about the sights and sites of the valley between the Boggera Mountains and the Nagles Mountains through which the Martin River flows south to Blarney and the Clyda River flows north through Mourne Abbey towards Mallow.

In this post I'd like to take you on a visit to one of the valleys of the Boggera Mountains to the north and west of Blarney. The Martin River meets the River Shournagh at St. Ann's just west of Blarney and shortly thereafter their mingled waters join the River Lee near Ballincollig. One branch of the old Muskerry Railway (1893-1934) used to follow the line of the River Souragh to Donoughmore and it is effectively in the traces of that line, going upstream from Blarney, that I am going to take you today.

Just north of where the Shournagh flows through St. Ann's, it passes through the townland of Loughane West, the site of the old Parish Church of Matehy. I don't mean the present St. Joseph's. One story of this site relates to the long era of the Penal Laws, when Catholicism was illegal and persecuted. As the Priest was celebrating Mass, a soldier entered and, before any of the congregation could react, drew his sword and cut off the Priest's arms. He rushed out of the Church and rode away down the hill. The horse stumbled beneath him, threw him to the ground and he was killed. A companion buried him in the grave yard of Loughane. The following morning, the people found that the dead soldier had left the grave yard, crossed the River, mounted the hill and lay buried instead in the grave yard of the Church at Matehy.

Farther up the river about half a mile north of the village of Donoughmore is the site of St. Lachteen's Well. The Holy Well is said to have dried up and appeared instead at Ballyglass near Lyradane because a woman once washed her clothes in it. The original well was the site where St. Lachteen preached to the people of the area, using the dripping waters of the well to illustrate the dropping down of God's mercy. The Corkman Lachteen had been directed by his guardian angel, Uriel, to the monastic school of St. Comgall at Bangor, where he studied for the Priesthood. The Saint lived near Donoughmore at the beginning of the 7th century. His pattern day is 19 March, on account of which the present well is known interchangably as St. Joseph's Well or Tobar Laichtin. The unfortunate modern Parish Church at Stuake is named for St. Lachteen. Built in the 1990s, it replaced a beautiful Church from the 1830s. It is certainly my least favourite Church in the County.

St. Lachteen also founded another monastery at Kilnamartyra about 8 miles to the west, set between the Sullane and Toone Rivers. Cill na Martra is actually the Church of the Relic, referring to St. Lachteen's hand was venerated. The 12th century 'shrine' or reliquary of his hand, Lámh Lachtaín, was kept locally by the Healy family until the 19th century, when it was sold and came to the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin and I think it's now in the National Museum of Ireland. As you can see, it is in the form of an arm with a fist, which is very worn on account of the custom of taking oaths on it. The beautiful old Church of Kilnamartyra (1839) is also dedicated to St. Lachteen.

Passing on through Gowlane Cross, you pass Uctough Mountain, which is the source of the River Shournagh. Next it passes through a very wide moorland, which is probably about 1,000 feet above sea level and as the road turns west to Nad, on the north face of the Boggeras, it passes the great Bweeng Mountain. The River Nad becomes the River Glen and, at Fr. Murphy's Bridge, you suddenly leave the mountains and enter the broad valley of the River Blackwater that sweeps eastward towards Mallow and Fermoy, then on to Lismore and Cappoquin, before turning sharply south and into the ocean at Youghal.

Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland

Yesterday, 19th March, the Holy Father issued a Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland. It concluded as follows: "I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you to a closer union with her Son, crucified and risen. With great affection and unswerving confidence in God’s promises, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord."

Prayer for the Church in Ireland

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.
Pope Benedict XVI

Friday 19 March 2010

Happy Feast Day Holy Father!

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, who is also the Heavenly Patron of Our Holy Father the Pope.

To thee, O Blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our tribulations, and while imploring the aid of thy most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. By that love which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, and by the fatherly affection with which thou didst embrace the Infant Jesus, we humbly beseech thee graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased with His Blood and to help us in our necessities, by thy powerful intercession.

Protect, O most provident Guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen children of Jesus Christ; ward off from us, O most loving Father, all taint of error and corruption; graciously assist us from Heaven, O most power protector, in our struggle with the powers of darkness; and as thou didst once rescue the Child Jesus from imminent peril to His life, so now defend the Holy Church of God from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.

Shield each one of us with thy unceasing patronage that, imitating thy example and sported by thy aid, we may be enabled to live a good life, die a holy death, and secure everlasting happiness in Heaven. Amen.
Pope Leo XIII

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us, pray for the Pope!

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Hail, Glorious Saint Patrick!

Today, more than ever, Ireland needs the intercession of our glorious Apostle. His own successor is surrounded with controversy and his own children celebrate his feast without acknowledging his mission.

Oh come to our aid! In our battle take part!

Sunday 14 March 2010

Eighteenth Monthly Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

The Eighteenth Monthly Mass took place today. A congregation of seventeen was present. It is the second-highest attendance in 10 months (since May, 2009) and the joint eighth-highest attendance overall.

Saturday 13 March 2010

A Miracle of Saint Brigid at the Church of Kildare

To conclude our look at the description of the church of Saint Brigid at Kildare by Cogitosus, here is the account of a miracle which occurred during its rebuilding. For scholar Carol Neuman de Vegvar, this incident may add weight to the argument for the historical authenticity of Cogitosus's account of the church and its dating:

The Vita Sanctae Brigidae describes the monastic church at Kildare as expanded in the seventh century to accommodate the growing community. Cogitosus's phrasing 'on account of the growing number of the faithful of both sexes, a new reality is born in an age-old setting' places this reconstruction in the recent past, and the miracle which follows with the craftsman's dispute over how to fit an old door formerly used by Brigit into a doorway of the new building, has the freshness of immediate personal experience of interviews with witnesses. Indeed, the composition of Cogitosus' Vita may have been part of the same promotion of Kildare as the construction of the new church and the translatio of Brigit and Conleth into its sanctuary. If so, then the new church must be estimated to have been constructed approximately between 640 and 670.

Canon O'Hanlon recounts the details of this miracle in his Lives of the Irish Saints:

A miracle, which occurred in repairing this church, and which, Cogitosus thinks should not be passed over in silence, has been placed on record. When the old door of the left side passage, through which St. Brigid used to enter the church, had been altered, repaired, and placed on its former hinges, by artisans, it could not exactly cover the opening as required. A fourth part of this space appeared exposed, without anything left to fill it ; and, if a fourth more were added and joined to the height of the gate, then it might fill up the entire altitude of this reconstructed and lofty passage. The workmen held a consultation, about making another new and larger door to fill up this entrance, or to prepare a panel for an addition to the old door, so as to make it the required size. A principal artisan among the Irish then spoke :"On this night, we should fervently implore the Lord, before St. Brigid, that before morning she may counsel us what course we ought to pursue, in reference to this matter," After these words, he passed a whole night in prayer, beside St. Brigid's tomb. On the morning he arose. He then found, on forcing and settling the old door on its hinge, the whole passage was filled, so that a single chink was not left uncovered, nor in its height was any, even the least, excess discovered. Thus, it happened, as the whole aperture was filled, that St. Brigid—as was generally believed—had miraculously extended that door in height. Nor did any part appear open, except when the door was moved on entering her church. This miracle, accomplished by Divine omnipotence, was evidently manifested to the eyes of all, who looked upon the door and the passage.

Friday 12 March 2010

The Standing Stone: Old Leighlin Cathedral, Co. Carlow.

Location – In the village of Old Leighlin about 3km West of Leighlinbridge just North of the Madlin River.
OS: S 659 654 (map 61)
Longitude: 7° 1' 27.55" W
Latitude: 52° 44' 9.8" N
GPS: S 65896 65436 (Accuracy – 4m)

Description and History – When I looked this site up in the Archaeological Inventory for County Carlow I was not prepared for what I would see...this church is still used. I’m so used to finding a pile of ruins in a field somewhere that this was a welcome surprise. The only part that is ruined is the surviving transept. The rest is still a functioning church with a very interesting history. I'm not from Carlow so most of you who are from the Kildare and Leighlin diocese will probably know much more about this place so please correct me if I am wrong about anything and feel free to tell me about anything extra that you know.

A Benedictine monastery was founded at Old Leighlin in the 7th century AD by St Gobban and St Molaise (also known as St Laserian) succeeded him as abbot of the monastery. Some sources say that Molaise was the brother of Gobban. Molaise allegedly died in an act of self sacrifice when he removed a hair from St Sillan’s eyebrow which caused death to anybody who saw it. Molaise died in c. 639 and his feast day is celebrated on 18th April with a service in the church and a parade to the nearby holy well. Molaise was foreshadowed by a vision of his Gobban’s. Gobban was said to have seen angels hovering over Old Leighlin who foresaw the arrival of a man who would gather ‘God’s servants’ to the monastery. This prophecy was fulfilled in Molaise’s lifetime and by the time he died there was somewhere in the region of 1500 monks at the monastery. Oldl Leighlin them became an Episcopal See and Molaise its first bishop. The monastery was selected as the site of a synod in 630AD to settle the dispute between Ireland and Rome over when Easter should be celebrated. It was decided to adopt the Roman method for determining Easter. The diocese of Leighlin was created in 1111AD and at the synod of Rathbreasail. The diocese was combined with Kildare in 1694.

The original church buildings, which were wooden, burnt down in c. 1060AD and just under a century later work on the stone building began and was completed by the end of the 13th century. The remains of the nave and chancel are all that remains of this phase of building and are now incorporated in to the 16th century rebuilding when the transepts and tower were added. One transept is now missing and the other is ruined. The surrounding graveyard is equally as fascinating as the church and contains many ornate gravestones dating from the 17th century onwards. Also located in the graveyard is the base of a high cross. This really is a lovely site to visit and is well maintained and seems to have fallen right out of a postcard.

Difficulty – Easy to find and get around.

The original post can be found at 'The Standing Stone' and can be seen here.

This the sight that greets you on the way into the graveyard. It's a wonderful spot.

This is the first view of the Cathedral you get.

Sorry about the sun in this shot. Here you can see the tower and ruined transept.

Blocked up window in the transept.

Lovely window on the East wall.

Ruined transept

This is the base of the high cross that is located in the graveyard.
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Monday 8 March 2010


It has been drawn to our attention that Marie Stopes has an online poll asking if abortion should be made legal in Ireland. Your attention, prayer and action would be welcome.

St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, pray for thy children!

…Latest… Poll removed due to massive Pro-Life vote …Latest…

A big “Thank you” to everyone who responded to our Action Alert on Monday, calling for a NO vote in an online poll on the Irish website of Marie Stopes International - one of the largest abortion providers in the world. Their poll was asking “Should abortion be legal in Ireland?” Before we sent out our alert, the poll was at: 64% Yes, 36% No

The day after we sent out our Action Alert the NO vote had shot up to 82%. Over the following days the vote in the poll steadily increased, and by Thursday it was a massive

94% NO

The latest news today (Friday) is that Marie Stopes have removed the poll from their website. They didn’t issue any press releases announcing that 94% of Irish people say abortion should not be legal in Ireland.

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan's wiles and the infidel throng;
Not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.

In the war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear saint, may thy children resist unto death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, in prayer,
Their banner the cross which they glory to bear.

Irish Missionaries Remembered

Fr. Ray Blake's excellent blog Saint Mary Magdalen includes a post on a recent television documentary remembering the contribution of Irish Missionaries to the Propagation of the Faith across the World. You can find his post here.

St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us!

St. Senan and Inniscarra

In Cork, talk around the cottage fireside during the Christmas vacation inevitably turned to Inniscarra, as the waters released from the hydroelectric project there washed down into Cork City.

As you drive from Coachford to Cork City the road makes the acquaintance of the River Lee in a way that it hasn't in the upper reaches of the River. Just to the west of where the River Dripsey meets the Lee is the hill of Cronodymore, once known as Cronody of the sweet apples on account of the orchards that once were to be found there. Cronody is now better known as the origin of many classic greyhounds. Upon the hill are the remains of a large circular tower that appears to have been a dovecote built by Elizabeth Cross or Crosse (née Baldwin of Mount Pleasant) in the 18th cent.

Close by, now covered by the waters created by the Inniscarra dam was the reputed site of a monastery known as Innisleena founded by St. Senan in the 6th cent. as he returned from a trip to Continental Europe on his way back to Scattery Island in Clare. The site had been considerably altered by later building, when it was the subject of an archaeological survey that preceded the hydro-electric project. It would appear that all traces of St. Senan's monastery had disappeared except fragments of a later building and the graves of the Fitzgibbon family. Some notable carved stones were noted and perhaps the remains of a window and what was reputed to be a stone baptismal font. The rainwater which gathered in it was said by the people of thereabouts to have curative powers for warts on fingers if you used it for three mornings before you broke the midnight fast. When Inniscarra dam flooded the area, all trace of the Fitzgibbon family, including 'Fitzgibbon Bridge' were obliterated by the waters just as all trace of St. Senan had disappeared centuries before. His feast day is 8 March.

Also covered by the waters of Inniscarra were the remains of Castle Inch about a mile further east. What remained to be covered was merely the stump of the castle, stronghold of the Barretts, who were vassels of the MacCarthaigh family of whom I spoke before. Five progenitors of the Barretts of Cork came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1169. In the 13th cent. they are recorded to have held a castle at Glandore. In 1436 they bought a stronghold at Ballincollig. Ballyburden, Carrigrohane, and Kilfinnane were also in their possession at various points. The townland of Coomavarodig or 'Glen of the Barretts' near Baltimore is also a trace of their presence. However, the family's power came to an end when Colonel John Barrett was dispossessed of his lands in 1691 for having dared to raise a regiment in the cause of the Catholic King James II. From that time, Castle Inch was allowed to fall into ruin but even in the 1950s the footprint was sizable. Near the castle was a double holy well known as Sunday's Well and St. Mary's Well but their waters now mingle with those of the Inniscarra Reservoir.

From Inniscarra Reservoir the Lee passes through what is known as Inniscarra Gap between two hills, Scornagh to the west and Garravagh to the east, a spot favoured by fishermen for salmon and trout, and moved into its final stage before reaching the City along a syncline of limestone that reaches over the Youghal and is met by the River Bride. Here is the site of Inniscarra Anglican Church built in 1819 that reputedly marks the site of another monastery of St. Senan.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Making the News (Part 5)

The Eucharistic Congress

In honorem Domini atque in amabilem Patricii memoriam (Book of Armagh)

The first Eucharistic Congress was held in 1881 under Pope Leo XIII. The 31st International Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin from 21st to 26th June, 1932. The Eucharistic Congress in Dublin commemorated the 15th centenary of the beginning of the mission of St. Patrick. The culmination of the Eucharistic Congress was a Pontifical High Mass in the Phoenix Park. The turning of the first sod of the construction of the High Altar by Archbishop Byrne is seen above.

The Eucharistic Congress was also the first great occasion for the outpouring of devotion by Irish Nation of their devotion to their Eucharistic Lord and to His Vicar on Earth in its newly won freedom. They took pride in honouring His Eminence, Lorenzo, Cardinal Lauri, who was, at the time, Major Penitentiary of the Holy See, as the Legate of Pope Pius XI to the Congress.

The event saw the use of cutting-edge technology, such as spectacular lighting effects, skywriting, and the largest personal-address (PA) system in the world. A high power station was established in Athlone to coincide with the staging of the Eucharistic Congress. 2RN, 6CK and Athlone became known as "Radio Athlone" or "Radio Áth Luain," the forerunner of RTÉ Radio. Radio Éireann” in 1938. From one point of view, the Eucharistic Congress was to radio in Ireland what the 1952 Coronation was to television in England

Pathé also has footage of National and International Eucharistic Congresses in Chicago and in New York (1926), Bologna (1927), Melbourne and Teramo and Cleveland (1935), Tripoli and Terracina (1937), New Orleans (1938), Algeria (1939), Nancy (1949), Rennes (1956), and Bombay (1964).

The Patrician Congress

The Patrician Holy Year, to mark the 15th centenary of the death of St. Patrick, was opened on 17th March of that year in St. Patrick's Cathedral City of Armagh. Cardinal MacIntyre of Los Angeles was the Papal Legate to the events. The occasion was also marked by the first visit of a President of Ireland to Armagh.

The Patrician Congress in Dublin was inaugurated by the Papal Legate to that event, Cardinal Agagianian, on 15th June of that year. Throughout the nine-day congress, a special Congress Candle lit from a fire kindled on the Hill of Slane, burned in O'Connell Street. The culmination of the Patrician Congress was the Pontifical High Mass in Croke Park on Sunday, 25th June, 1961.

The Congress is covered, somewhat incongrously, about 9 minutes into the Pathé review of 1961.