Monday 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve in Ireland

Frontispiece to The Irish Christmas (Dublin, 1917).

Today is Christmas Eve and as a child I remember hearing that on this night we should leave a light shining in the front window of the house. This was to act as a signal that even if there was 'no room at the inn' elsewhere, Saint Joseph and Our Blessed Lady would find shelter with us. Katharine Tynan in her poem 'Christmas Eve in Ireland' alludes to this tradition and also to the fact that people not only displayed lights but kept their doors unlocked. Obviously it was an earlier and more innocent age!


NOT a cabin in the Glen shuts its door to-night,
Lest the travellers abroad knock in vain and pass,
Just a humble gentleman and a lady bright
And she to be riding on an ass.

Grief is on her goodman, that the inns deny
Shelter to his dearest Dear in her hour of need;
That her Babe of royal birth, starriest, most high,
Has not where to lay His head.

Must they turn in sadness to the cattle byre
And the kind beasts once again shake the bed for
Not a cabin in the Glen but heaps wood on the fire
And keeps its lamps a-trim.

Now the woman makes the bed, smooths the linen
Spreads the blanket, soft and white, that her
own hands spun.
Whisht! is that the ass that comes, on his four
little feet,
Carrying the Holy One ?

Nay, 'twas but the wind and rain, the sand on the
A bitter night, yea, cruel, for folk to be abroad.
And she, not fit for hardship, outside a fast-closed
And her Son the Son of God!

Is it the moon that's turning the dark world to
bright ?
Is it some wonderful dawning in the night and
cold ?
Whisht! did you see a shining One and Him to
be clad in light
And the wings and head of Him gold ?

Who are then those people, hurrying, hasting,
And they all looking up in the sky this night of
wondrous things ?
Oh, those I think be shepherdmen, and they that
follow close
I think by their look be kings.

Not a cabin in the Glen shuts the door till day,
Lest the heavenly travellers come, knock again
in vain.
All the night the dulcimers, flutes, and hautboys
And the angels walk with men.

Saturday 8 December 2012

The Immaculate Conception - Ave Maria Purissima

The Eastern Churches have a number of religious salutations - 'funky' was the term I read once used to describe them - like "Glory to Jesus Christ" to which is responded "Glory forever" or "Christ is risen/baptized/born/in our midst" and so forth.

Actually the Western Church has them also, except nowadays they are not so well practiced.

One of the common salutations was this Marian one:


Hail Mary Most Pure
Without sin conceived.

This greeting was the byword of the "Immaculists" during the years when the Immaculate Conception was not yet dogma. It was especially prevalent in Spain and all the Spanish influenced countries particularly in central and South America. Spain particularly was on the side of the Immaculists - the country was placed udner the patronage of the Immaculate Conception and had the Office Sicut Lilium and the Mass Egredimini granted to it.

If you are wondering what I'm nattering about, until the mid 19th century, approx. before the dogma was declared by Pius IX, the de facto Office and Mass for the Immaculate Conception was the same as the Mass and Divine Office for the Nativity, with the word "Nativity" subsituted by "Conception" (no "Immaculate"). However, certain countries and orders were allowed to use a special Office and Mass - Sicut Lilium and Egredimini - which made direct the reference to the Immaculate Conception.

I'm veering off topic so I'd better retun to Spain. Apparently people used to "bawl" it out, according to one Protestant visitor.

I think some effort should be made to restore such pious acclamations to daily use. I'm tempted to answer the phone and say "Ave Maria Purissima?". I'd probably get a non-salutary "Eh?" or hang up in reply, though.

But if I can't use it in real life, I can on the Internet! So for the Immaculate Conception I'm greeting everyone by saying "Ave Maria Purissima".

Sine peccato Concepta!

Thursday 6 December 2012

Saint Nicholas: the Irish Connection

Below is a post which first appeared on my former blog Under the Oak in 2009. I have now closed this site but continue to blog about the Irish saints at my new blog Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae

December 6 is the commemoration of an eastern saint who is truly loved the world over - Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra. A Russian lady once told me that her people love Saint Nicholas so much that they are apt to forget he isn't actually Russian himself. This set me wondering if there might be an Irish dimension to the veneration of the great bishop of Myra. I found that there is, but that it owes more to the Normans and the Crusades than to the earlier native church. In his 12th-century Martyrology, Marianus O'Gorman begins the list of saints commemorated today with 'Nicolaus a holy man'. The Cathedral of Galway, constructed in 1320, was dedicated to Saint Nicholas in his capacity as a protector of seafarers. He was seen as an appropriate patron for a rising commercial city and indeed, the great bishop of Myra is the diocesan patron of Galway and is honoured as such in the Litany of Irish Saints. But Ireland makes an even more extraordinary claim in relation to Saint Nicholas - it claims to be the place where he is buried! Below is an article from an Irish newspaper which summarizes the story:

CURIOSITIES: SANTA CLAUS may well be buried in a little country graveyard in south Kilkenny. Incredible as this might seem there is evidence to substantiate the possibility that Saint Nicholas of Myra, the original Santa Claus, is buried just west of Jerpoint Abbey, one of the finest Cistercian ruins in Ireland, in Co Kilkenny. The unmarked grave is in the ruined church at Newtown-Jerpoint (two kilometres outside Thomastown) once the site of a thriving Norman town that was abandoned in the 17th century probably due to plague, writes Gerry Moran.

St Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Turkey, died in AD 342 and was buried there. How his remains, or a portion of them, arrived in south Kilkenny has much to do with the Norman crusaders.

Jerpoint Abbey was founded around 1158 by Donnchadh Mac Giolla Phádraig, King of Ossory. In 1180, it was taken over by the Cistercian order. In 1200, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, of Kilkenny Castle, decided to build a new town just across the river from Jerpoint Abbey. He called the town Nova Villa Juxta Geripons meaning "The New Town Across from Jerpoint". That same year the Church of St Nicholas of Myra was built in the town and, according to the historian Canon Carrigan, the tomb was laid that same year also.

When Strongbow invaded Ireland in 1169, his most trusted lieutenant was Sir Humphrey De Fraine. When the church of Newtown-Jerpoint was built and dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra in 1200, the most powerful Anglo-Norman baron in south Kilkenny was Nicholas De Fraine, son of Sir Humphrey.

The story goes that the Norman Knights of Jerpoint, the crusading De Fraines (or De Freynes) when forced to evacuate the Holy Land exhumed the remains of St Nicholas of Myra and brought them to Normandy from where they eventually found their way to Jerpoint. The remains were laid to rest beneath a slab, now broken across the centre, depicting a monk in habit and cowl. The grave, whether it be that of the real Santa Claus or not, can still be seen to this day. [see photograph above]

I am cynical about these old stories that supposedly go back into the mists of time, often the truth is that they cannot be traced back beyond the beginnings of the Victorian tourist era. I would be interested to know how far back this one about Saint Nicholas can really be charted in the historical record, if this is a genuine medieval tradition, one would expect to find some mention of it somewhere. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it cannot be traced back any further than the 19th century. I wouldn't be surprised either if it receives a new lease of life in our own time when yarns about secret lore, knights, crusaders and relics have topped the bestseller lists.

Friday 28 September 2012

Pilgrimage to Vienna September 2010 - Day 3

So, the third day had arrived - and with it the dreaded climb, on which there will be more written further down, but we must start from the beginning. After breakfast, excellent as always, we went on a trip just outside of the city centre to visit the summer palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy; the baroque Belvedere castles. Prince Eugene became rather rich fighting the Turks and had, apart from the two Belvedere castles, a palace in central Vienna. The palaces are now used for art exhibitions and between them lies a beautiful garden with everything one could possibly want from a garden- fountains, sphinxes, statues...and trees.

Walking down from the Upper Belvedere to the Lower Belvedere and exiting the garden we came upon the Karlskirche (OK, there was also a short walk).

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Pilgrimage to Vienna September 2010 - Day 2

After an intensive first afternoon the next morning started with Mass in the Kapuzinerkirche, where they celebrate the Latin Mass every morning, then back to the monastery on the Freyung for breakfast before the group of pilgrims were back on the streets to experience more of Catholic Vienna. The guest house is part of the Schottenstift, named after the Schotten (Scots); Irish monks involved in missionary work, a Benedictine monastery.

First stop on this days walk was the Stephansdom - St. Stephen's Cathedral - with its incredible roof and towers. There's been a church on the site since 1147, and indeed the entrance and towers of that church are the ones in the cathedral today, the rest of the church is the result of several rebuilds and additions - all in the gothic style, but differing slightly in age. After another excellent pilgrims presentation we looked around inside the church. Going up in a lift to the top of the North Tower we had a look at the bells in the tower (the famous Pummerin bell, third largest in Europe) as well as a great view of the entire city of Vienna (and a close up-view of the roof!), but there was, of course, also much to see in the church itself. A Byzantine style icon of the Madonna and child can be found just inside the doors to the church. It was brought to Vienna in the late 1600s by the Emperor Leopold I after the Mother in the picture had on several occasions been crying real tears.

The last thing on the agenda was the Kapuzinerkirche and its Kaisergruft. This Capuchin church, officially named Church of St. Mary of the Angels, is the one where the Latin Mass is celebrated each morning. It was finished in 1632 after having been delayed by the outbreak of the 30 years war. Underneath the church is a mausoleum where most of the remains of all the members of the Habsburg dynasty are laid to rest - 143 Habsburgs are entombed here. The first people to be buried here were Emperor Matthias and Empress Anna of Tyrol, who also provided the money to build both the church and the crypt, whose sarcophagi are kept in the Founder's Vault. The crypt is an impressive, though somewhat scary, place full of coffins and decorative skeletons.

Pilgrimage to Vienna September 2010 - Day 1

This years pilgrimage went to Vienna - a city full of Catholic heritage. We started in the afternoon of the 19th with a walk around the city centre including presentations of the Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church) and the Pestsäule (Plague monument), both on the Graben ("graben" meaning grave or ditch - one of the main streets in central Vienna). The presentations were held by different pilgrims and were all very good (well, my own might have been a little short... and slightly confused).

The Peterskirche, here to the left, is one of the oldest churches in Vienna, the first church on the site was built in the early Middle Ages and there have been several churches there before the current baroque one which was built in the beginning of the 18th century. It has a rather impressive exterior, the kind you want to take a step back to really admire. This, however, is impossible since this rather grand church has been squeezed into, in my mind, far to small a spot. The interior, too, is interesting, with a golden image of St. John of Nepomuc being thrown off the Charles Bridge in Prague. I was in Prague a few weeks before the pilgrimage to Vienna and I saw the tomb of St. John in St. Vitus' Cathedral at Prague Castle, designed by Fischer von Erlach, the very famous architect who also did much work in Vienna. John of Nepomuc lived in the 14th century and was considered a martyr after being drowned in the Vltava river for refusing to divulge secrets from the confessional of the queen of Bohemia, to whom he was the confessor. He's the patron against calumnies and a protector from floods. He was canonized in 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.

The Pestsäule is a magnificent column crowned by golden statues of the trinity and a stone one of Emperor Leopold I kneeling in front of them. It was he who erected the column after God answered his prayer to end the 1678 plague epidemic a little early. The original monument was made of wood but when God was nice enough to also help drive out the Turks from Vienna in 1683 the Emperor replaced it with the one you can see here on the right.

But Vienna has more to offer the fun loving catholic; a couple of us who were early to arrive made good use of the extra time and went to Mass in the Hofburg Chapel, with the boys choir singing, and then went to see the Spanish Riding School - amazing horses performing the most advanced and exquisite dressage movements, the performance being set to music. The Spanish Riding School is thus called because the horses they use, called Lipizzaners, were brought from Spain by the Emperor Charles VI who founded the riding school in the 18th century. Up until two years ago all the riders at the school were men but they now also allow girl riders and have, we learned from the guide as we walked through the stables, two female riders training now. The riding school itself is an incredible building located in the Hofburg with the stables just across the Herrengasse.

October Devotions in Limerick

The following news has just been received from the Institute of Christ the King in Limerick:

Dear Friends,

The Holy Rosary will be prayed solemnly before the Blessed Sacrament exposed at Sacred Heart Church in Limerick, beginning Monday 1st October at 6pm (every day of October except Sunday)

Yours in Christ
Canon Lebocq
Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
Sacred Heart Church
16, The Crescent

God bless Christ the King!

Monday 24 September 2012

St. Pius X - Part XI

On this day one hundred years ago, St. Pius X issued his Encyclical Singulari Quadam on Labour Organisations.

Sancte Pie Decime, Gloriose Patrone, ora pro nobis!

Saturday 22 September 2012

Sunday 2 September 2012

Another cause for rejoicing, the Manchester Oratory

Today we heard that approval has been given to the establishing of an Oratory in Manchester.  The following information appeared on the website of the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus website.

"With great thanksgiving to Almighty God, our Blessed Lady and our Holy Father St Philip, we can announce that the Bishop of Salford given his approval for the erection of the Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Manchester.

The Manchester Oratory will be close to the city centre at St Chad’s, Cheetham Hill, which is the Mother Church of the City.

We will continue to be at the Holy Name until Advent, or when arrangements have been finalised. The Holy Name will then be part of the Chaplaincy to the Universities on Oxford Road staffed by the Society of Jesus.

A Letter from His Lordship will be read the weekend of 1st / 2nd September to the Congregations at the Holy Name and St Chad’s.

Please keep us in your prayers at this time."

The Manchester Oratory will be the fourth English Oratory.  The first, Birmingham, was established by Bl Cardinal John Henry Newman in 1848, and was shortly followed by London and more recently Oxford.  St Chads Church is associated with Sister Elizabeth Prout who converted to Catholicism having heard a talk by Blessed Dominic Barberi who also received Bl Cardinal John Henry Newman into the Church.  Some pictures of the church can be found here.

It is particularly welcome to hear this news following so quickly on the heels of the announcement of the Institute of Christ the King's purchase of the Sacred Heart Church in Limerick.  

Tuesday 28 August 2012

International Pilgrimage to Rome 'Pro Summorum Pontificum'

Interview with official spokesman for International Pilgrimage to Rome 'Pro Summorum Pontificum'

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, 3rd November, 2012, Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, as the culmination of the International Pilgrimage organised by the Coetus Internationalis pro 'Summorum Pontificum' to bring together all those who support 'Summorum Pontificum' in a public gesture of support for Pope Benedict XVI during the Holy Year of Faith and for the fifth anniversary of 'Summorum Pontificum'. Thomas Murphy, Secretary of FIUV is the official spokesman for the International Pilgrimage and the CISP. He recently gave the following interview:

Thomas Murphy, you're the official spokesperson of Coetus Internationalis pro Summorum Pontificum: What is the purpose of this committee?

The Coetus Internationalis brings together various groups of faithful who are working in their own way in support of Summorum Pontificum. To unite those groups in charity and to work in co-operation is our first purpose. The focus of the Coetus Internationalis is to organize a pilgrimage to Rome in early November.

We are taking the opportunity of the Holy Year of Faith and the 5th Anniversary of ‘Summorum Pontificum’ to invite associations, groups and movements of the faithful from across Europe and the World to join us in Rome for an expression of support for the Holy Father and to give thanks for the Pope’s Magna Carta liberating the Gregorian Rite. This is our invitation to all the faithful to affirm our Catholic Faith and our fidelity to the Roman Pontiff, to express our belief that traditional Latin liturgy is a perfect instrument of the New Evangelization, including by its appeal to the young and its universality.

The pilgrimage will culminate in a Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 3rd November, in St. Peter’s Basilica, the beating heart of the Catholic World.

What are the movements adhering to the initiative?

The list of movements is growing almost daily. We intend to produce an initial list at the official launch of the pilgrimage on 10th September but some movements merit particular mention. I speak also as the Secretary of the International Federation “Una Voce”, which has given its strong support to the Coetus Internationalis. Member Associations of our Federation across five continents, especially Una Voce Italia, have been active in the work of the Coetus Internationalis.

An excellent new initiative has been the Coetus Nationalis pro Summorum Pontificum (CNSP), drawing together groups and organizations on the Italian peninsula including some of our Una Voce associations. The CNSP has been a bedrock of the Coetus Internationalis.

I would also like to give honoured mention to the very experienced and recognized French association Notre-Dame-de- Chrétienté, organizer of the annual Chartres pilgrimage and the Foederatio Internationalis Juventutem, the International Federation of Young People in support of Summorum Pontificum, a well-known sight at World Youth Day, that have confirmed their adherence to the Coetus Internationalis in recent days.

The support of all of these groups and movements is essential if we are to achieve our purpose of creating a unity of charity and co-operation among the supporters of Summorum Pontificum, and especially in expressing our thanks for Summorum Pontificum and our fidelity to the Roman Pontiff during the pilgrimage to Rome in November. I repeat that invitation to any group supporting Summorum Pontificum to register in support of the Coetus Internationalis.

Do you have any other details on the progress of pilgrimage, such as example, the name of the celebrant?

We are working as actively as the summer break, sacrosanct in Rome, will allow. The name of the celebrant will be announced at the official launch in September. In addition to the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, we invite each group that joins us to hold a ceremony or gathering of their own in Rome during that weekend of All Saints. To this end, our chaplain, Abbé Claude Barthe, author of numerous books and articles on liturgical matters, will liaise with groups of pilgrims and with clergy who will be in Rome on this occasion. Anyone interested can already contact our Secretariat at the address or myself at

You launch the pilgrimage officially on 10th September, barely eight weeks prior to the Mass on 3rd November. Time is short. How many pilgrims do you expect to make the trip to Rome?

It is true that the deadlines are short. However, much work has been done by the Coetus Internationalis discreetly over many months. The estimates that I have seen give a range of between 3,000 to 4,000 pilgrims from around the world.

You mentioned that you are also Secretary of the FIUV? What role has FIUV played in this pilgrimage and what place does this pilgrimage have in the activities of the FIUV?

As the oldest organization of laity working for the preservation of the Traditional Latin Liturgy, the International Federation “Una Voce” was involved from the beginning in this. Our network of Associations and Federations in 33 Countries across five Continents places great emphasis upon working in co-operation and within a unity of charity. It was natural that FIUV would be an early and steadfast supporter of the Coetus Internationalis.

Our Federation comes to Rome every two years for a General Assembly of Members but we were anxious to make a special effort to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum and to demonstrate our fidelity to the Pope during the Year of Faith. The pilgrimage to Rome in November will be an ideal opportunity to do as Catholics have always done, to make a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles, and to publicly declare their fidelity to the Pope.

Where the Coetus Internationalis is different, and what should appeal to everyone who supports Summorum Pontificum, is its freedom from division. It is a simple act of love on the part of many souls in many Catholic movements that seeks to include everyone in our visible expression of Faith, of thanks and of fidelity. To all those who share our Catholic Faith, who share our gratitude for Summorum Pontificum, who share our fidelity to the Holy Father, and to all those who listen to my words I say: Come with us to Rome!

Friday 24 August 2012


We have just received the following GLORIOUS news from the Institute of Christ the King in Ireland:

"Sacred Heart Church purchased by the Institute of Christ the King in Limerick, Ireland

With the help of numerous friends from Ireland, the United States and Continental Europe, the Church of the Sacred Heart at the Crescent in Limerick, also known as the Jesuit Church after its first builders and long-term occupants, was recently purchased by a young priestly community called the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The church and adjacent building, sold to a developer some years ago, had stood vacant for six years and was in danger of falling into ruin. Therefore many people from Limerick and other parts of Ireland were happy to help this Institute bring the Church of the Sacred Heart and its residence back to life.

A young community of members of the Institute of Christ the King will very soon move into the attached residence in spite of its rather poor condition, and the church will serve for the time being as its chapel. With the permission of the Bishop of Limerick, the Institute of Christ the King has had a residence in the diocese since 2009 and offers Mass every Sunday in the Extraordinary Form at St. Patrick's Church, whilst also working in a few neighbouring dioceses.

Founded in 1990, the Institute is a Roman-Catholic Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right in canonical form. The 64 priests of the Institute work all over the world to promote the spiritual Kingship of Christ. A special emphasis is laid on the harmony between faith and culture, and thus the young community has acquired a reputation for promoting the arts, especially sacred music and architecture. This experience will serve to restore the Church of the Sacred Heart to its classical beauty and make it available once more as a point of reference for the cultural life of Limerick.

The mother-house and international seminary of the Institute of Christ the King is based in Florence, Italy, where 80 seminarians are training for the priesthood and 21 religious sisters are especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Among these are already several Irish vocations. This young community has missions in Gabon (Africa) and important apostolates in the United States, England, France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Sweden and naturally in Rome, where their founder, Msgr. Gilles Wach, was ordained to the priesthood by Blessed Pope John Paul. The provincial superior of the community in Ireland is at present Msgr. Michael Schmitz, who was ordained a priest by the present Holy Father, the then Cardinal Ratzinger.

The prior of the Church of the Sacred Heart is a 38 year-old priest, Canon Wulfran Lebocq, choir-master of the Institute and permanently resident in the diocese since 2010. For the time being, the community in Limerick is composed of four members, whose average age is 32.

The Institute of Christ the King follows the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, which is expressed in the motto of the Institute: Live the truth in charity, and could be summarised in the famous quote of the Doctor of Charity: Cook the truth in charity until it tastes sweet. The Canons of the Institute of Christ the King have a vast experience in working with the young. Schools, youth camps, days of recollection, musical training and many other activities are among the benefits they are used to bringing to the places where they work.

In Limerick, the Institute of Christ the King, supported by many local residents and a large group of friends in Ireland and abroad, intends to restore the Church of the Sacred Heart to its original purpose as a vibrant spiritual and cultural centre and a beautiful place of worship through a dynamic and open community life as a spiritual family. However, this will require a careful historical restoration before the Church may be opened once again to the greater public.

The Institute of Christ the King celebrates the classical Roman Liturgy, the Latin Mass, in its Extraordinary Form according to the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962. This liturgy, promoted by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in various documents, attracts today an ever greater number of people, especially young adults, students and families. The Institute is accustomed to see a lively family of faithful in its churches and wishes to bring the uplifting beauty of sacrality and genuine culture to all.

This beautiful church at the Crescent is still today a special architectural jewel, and many deplored its closing and long-term vacancy. The Institute of Christ the King, which has a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly desires to reopen this church for the benefit of all, in close collaboration with the local civil and ecclesiastical authorities. In this way, yet another sign of a brighter future will again come alive in Limerick.

Those who would like to know more about this important project for Limerick City can find further information either on their website ( or by visiting the community at the Crescent: Come and see!"

Ireland owes a great debt to the Institute of Christ the King for rescuing this Church from secular use (see here and here).  A history of the Church can be found here and some images of the Church can be found here.


Sunday 19 August 2012

Mass in Emo in August 2012

On Saturday 18th August Mass was celebrated in the Gregorian Rite once again in St. Paul's Emo. St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association has also had the privilege to organise Mass there in 2008, in 2010 (also here) and in 2011. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Very Reverend Parish Priest of Emo and Portarlington and to the members of the Institute of Christ the King.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Monday 23 July 2012

First Mass of Canon Louis Valadier

Canon Louis Valadier of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest celebrated a First Mass in Ss. Peter and Paul's, Cork, in the presence of Raymond Leo, Cardinal Burke who had ordained him in Florence earlier in the month. Deo Gratias!