Saturday, 9 May 2015

A wedding reflects the love of God,
and is a sign of the Kingdom of God

‘The Wedding Feast at Cana’ (1670-1672), by Jan Steen (1626-1679), The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Patrick Comerford,

Saint Martin of Tours Parish Church,

Culmullen, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath,

1.30 p.m., 9 May 2015,

The wedding of Laura Pender and Mark McLoughlin

I Corinthians 12: 31 to 13: 8a; Matthew 5: 1-12a.


May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A wedding is a wonderful event, not just for the bride and groom but for the whole family, on both sides, and it should be too – I shall explain in a moment or two – for the whole world.

At a very practical level, Jesus knows what it is to enjoy a good weekend wedding. The story of the wedding feast at Cana (John 2: 1-12) is set long before he begins his public ministry. Yet it is the first of the signs in Saint John’s Gospel that tell us who he truly is.

It is a story everyone loves. After all, we enjoy the idea that the wine flows freely; we enjoy the idea that he blesses a young couple at the start of their new life with abundant generosity; we like the idea that he knows how to celebrate with his family and his friends; we are thankful that he saves everyone from embarrassment – the bride and groom, the man in charge of the banquet, the people serving at the tables, the guests who might otherwise have had to cough up or go home early … and so on.

But so often when we recall this story, we never quite get to the end. We normally read John 2: 1-11. But I sometimes think the real ending comes in the next verse (12), which tells us:

“After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.”

It was a long walk back: 18 miles or 27 km, and in the conditions of the time it would have taken a good day’s walk.

What did they talk about on the long day’s walk?

Was that your cousin? Is she your new sister-in-law? Who did he dance with? Will they fall in love? Are they really in love?

Who are we related to now? Even: what is the meaning of love?

Everyone goes home after a wedding with a fresh understanding of who they are: Laura and Mark each has a new father-in-law and mother-in-law, Richard and Alison, Don and Joan, have a new son-in-law and daughter-in-law. But it quickly moves beyond that: new brothers-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins by marriage, and so on.

Why, in a few generations time, people will have forgotten how we are related to one another. In a few generations from now, cousins will just know they are cousins, people will just know they are part of an extended family. You shall just know that you are family, and that you are blessed for being part of that family.

Probably because he knows how weddings and the way they create and shape new families, the new links, the new cousins, the new relationships they shape and create, Jesus constantly uses weddings as an illustration to tell us about the love God has for us, and the way the future can be, the way the Kingdom of God can be.

When we publicly show our love for one another, when we form new families, when we allow the ripples of love to spread out in ways that we cannot control, in ways in which we lose control, then we are truly partners in creating the Kingdom of God.

Laura and Mark, today you are becoming partners, not just of one another, but in shaping and creating the Kingdom of God.

What a blessing … a blessing for you, and a blessing for us.

In search for love and happiness, you are creating love and happiness. But you are also building on the love and happiness of others who have struggled before.

You have not earned love and happiness … you have been given them as gifts by those who shaped and created families, shaped them in love, created them perhaps not knowing they were signs of the Kingdom of God.

As Saint Paul tells us in our Epistle reading, love is the most important, the greatest gift you can give and receive.

And because that has come to you as a blessed but free gift from the past and the present, you, we, all of us have a duty and a responsibility to pass it on to the future.

How do we pass it on?

How do we allow that love to create more love?

How do we invest so that it yields dividends in the future?

It is quite simple, Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes, our Gospel reading this afternoon. Blessed or happy are … an amazing list of people we never expect to be happy or blessed: the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, the hungry and the thirsty, those who seek justice and show mercy, those with big hearts; those who not only want peace but who make peace, demand peace; those who are persecuted and abused and maligned.

The kingdom of God is not about taking the easy options, it is sometimes about taking the risky and costly options – all for the sake of love.

But Laura and Mark, Richard and Alison, Don and Joan, everyone here who is married, everyone here who has found a little more love in life because of the marriage of others, happiness and love are not rights, they come as gifts.

And the best way of saying thanks for those gifts is not to leave them to one side, wrapped up in colourful paper, ribbons and bows. The best way to say thank you for a gift is to use it.

Use the love and happiness that you have received as gifts. Pass it, particularly to those who need it most. Let your love be signs of the Kingdom of God.

For as Saint Paul tells us today: Love does not come to an end. It truly is the never-ending gift, the one true, everlasting, eternal gift that lets us know what the Kingdom of God is like. For, indeed, there are only two commandments: to love God, and to love one another.

Love one another, love God, love those in the beatitudes who are signs of the kingdom, love the walk and the journey together in love and to love, pass on to future generations the love you have received from the present and past generations.

And so may all we think, say and do, be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Saint Martin of Tours Parish Church, Culmullen, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath

Back on the Pugin trail at a wedding in
a Gothic Revival church in Co Meath

The Church of Saint Martin of Tours in Culmullen, Co Meath … designed by William Hague

Patrick Comerford

Later today I am taking part in a wedding in the Roman Catholic parish church in Culmullen, near Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

The church in Culmullen is dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours and was renovated in 1989, but dates back to last quarter of the 19th century.

This is a single-cell Gothic Revival church designed in 1876 by the architect William Hague (1840–1899), a protégé of AWN Pugin.

Hague was active as a church architect in Ireland throughout the mid and late 19th century, working mainly from his offices at 50 Dawson Street, Dublin.

Hague was born in Co Cavan, the son of William Hague, a builder from Butlersbirdge who moved town Cavan town in 1838. William Hague jr designed several churches in Ireland, many in the French Gothic style. He was a pupil of Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860), the English architect who designed the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Hague spent four years in Barry’s office, and after practising briefly as an architect in Cavan he opened an office at 175 Great Brunswick Street, Dublin, in 1861. Later he was invited to supervise the completion of the unfinished church of Saint Augustine and Saint John in Thomas Street (John’s Lane), Dublin, begun by Pugin’s son, Edward Pugin, and George Coppinger Ashlin in 1862.

In the year Saint Martin’s Church was built in Culmullen, Hague married Anne Frances Daly, the daughter of a Dublin solicitor, Vesey Daly of Eccles Street. They were married in Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin, on 26 April 1876, and they had two sons, William Vesey Hague, the writer and philosopher, and Joseph Patrick Clifford Hague, and two daughters.

Hague had a flourishing practice, particularly as a prolific designer of Roman Catholic churches, designing or altering 40 to 50 throughout Ireland. He was the architect to Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Armagh, in the 1880s and 1890s. When he went to Rome to select marbles for the cathedral, he had a private meeting with Pope Leo XIII, who “imposed upon him an injunction to make such choice as would be worthy of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick’s See.”

Saint Martin’s Church in Culmullen, which was dedicated on 1 September 1878, was built by Hall and Son. The church is a good example of Gothic Revival church architecture. It is worth looking out for is the use of structural polychromy throughout the exterior which adds textural contrast with the rock-faced limestone. The conical bell tower and stained glass give artistic effect.

The church is built of rock-faced limestone with polychrome brick detailing and string courses. It has a pitched two-tone natural slate roof, with decorative terracotta ridge tiles and cast-iron rainwater goods.

There is a five-bay nave with pointed-arched stained glass windows, some in pairs, and stone sills. The windows are by Early and Powell, who worked in many of the Pugin and Gothic Revival churches in Ireland.

The gable-fronted west porch has a pointed-arch door opening with brick surrounds and a pair of timber doors.

The bell tower is designed on a rectangular plan with conical slate spire, and is topped with a cast-iron weather vane, attached to the west at the junction of the nave and the chancel.

There is a single-bay chancel to the north with a gable-fronted sacristy attached to the west. Three lancet windows illustrating the life story of Saint Martin of Tours light the chancel and the nave is lit by three lancet windows above five smaller lights, all with brick surrounds.

Both the nave and chancel gables are surmounted with carved stone crosses. The marble altar was designed by Neill and Co, and the octagonal font is said to be late mediaeval.

The roof is supported on king post trusses with diagonal struts.

The site of the church is enhanced by the cast-iron gates and railings and the graveyard to the rear. There are limestone gate piers with cast-iron gates and cast-iron railings on the limestone boundary wall, and a graveyard to the east.

Hague designed churches, convents, colleges, schools and town halls throughout Ireland. He completed Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, after the death of JJ McCarthy, often known as the “Irish Pugin,” and was responsible for the spire, the tower and the interior of McCarthy’s chapel at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, which were completed after his death in 1905.

He completed the interior of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, in 1880, when Bishop Michael Comerford was the parish priest. He also designed many of the buildings at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and Saint Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Hague’s acceptance of commissions was ecumenical in scope. His many other works include the Archbishop’s Palace, Drumcondra, Dublin; Belturbet Presbyterian Church, Co Cavan; Cavan Methodist Church; the Protestant Hall, Cavan; Saint Aidan’s Church, Butlersbridge, Co Cavan; Saint Bridget’s Church, Killeshandra, Co Cavan; Saint John’s Church (Church of Ireland), Cloverhill, Butlersbirdge, Co Cavan; Saint Patrick’s Church, Ballybay, Co Monaghan; Saint Patrick’s Church, Trim, Co Meath; Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan; the Town Halls in Carlow and Sligo; Waterside Presbyterian Church, Derry; and the Westenra Arms Hotel, Monaghan.

Hague had become a Justice of the Peace (JP) for Co Cavan by 1885. He died of pneumonia at his house at 21 Upper Mount Street, Dublin, on 22 March 1899 and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery three days later.

He worked from: 175 Great Brunswick Street, Dublin, and Cavan (1861-1872); 44 Westland Row and Cavan (1872-1877); 44 Westland Row (1879); 40 Dawson Street, Dublin (1879-1881); 62 Dawson Street (1881-1887); and 50 Dawson Street (1888-1899). He lived at 21 Upper Mount Street, and Kilnacrott House, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.

After his death, his former student and managing assistant, Thomas Francis McNamara (1867-1947), took over most of his work under the business name of Hague & McNamara.