Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Running with the saints
with perseverance in
the race set before us

All Saints’ Day … the Lamb on the Throne surrounded by the angels and saints

Patrick Comerford,

All Saints’ Day, 1 November 2017,

11 a.m., The Eucharist,

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton


Readings: Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 34; 1-10; Revelation 7: 9-17; and Matthew 5: 1-12.

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

Today is All Saints’ Day in the Calendar of the Church, and although there is a provision in the Calendar and Directory of the Church of Ireland that allows us to celeb rate All Saints’ Day next Sunday [5 November 2017], I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate this feast day on the day itself, and to invite us all back to rectory for tea or coffee.

After all, All Saints’ Day is one of the 12 Principal Feasts of the Church. From the third century, there is evidence of celebrations of All Martyrs. The Eastern Church continues a fourth century tradition of the ‘Sunday of All Saints’ being celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost.

In the early seventh century, the Pantheon in Rome, which had been closed for over a century, was dedicated to Saint Mary and All Martyrs. By the eighth century, 1 November was growing in popularity for the celebration of All Saints, possibly originating in Ireland. By the ninth century, the date had reached Rome and then the Holy Roman Empire.

The Reformers in 16th century England followed German reformers producing a calendar with only New Testament saints and this festival. There was no distinction between ‘All Saints’ and ‘All Souls.’

So, who is your favourite saint?

Saints do not have to be martyrs. But in recent weeks there was a major commemoration in Westminster Abbey of Oscar Romero, a very modern martyr, to mark his 100th birthday.

Saints do not have to be canonised. I think of modern martyrs such as Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or of Heather Heyer, the civil rights activist who was killed by far-right neo-Nazis and racists in Charlottesville, Kentucky, a few months ago.

Saints do not have to be canonised. I think for many of us we know that the people who handed on the faith to us from previous generations – teachers, grandparents, perhaps neighbours – even though they may be long dead by now, are still part of our vision of the Communion of Saints.

Saints do not have to live a perfect life … none of us is without sin, and none of us is beyond redemption. Some of the saints carved on the West Front of Westminster Abbey might have been very surprised to know they were going to appear there. But their lives in sum totals are what we are asked to think about.

And saints do not have to be shrouded in superstition. Yes, there are popular saints in working class Dublin, including Saint Blaise for blessing sore throats and the reverence shown to Saint Valentine in Whitefriar Street Church, particularly in the run-up to Saint Valentine’s Day. But saints, instead, are supposed to be examples of holy living.

Some years ago, in Wednesday morning tutorials, I asked students to come along with stories of their favourite ‘saints and heroes.’ And they included an interesting array of people, some of them still living.

In the back-page interviews in the Church Times, people are sometimes asked who they would like to be locked into a church with for a few hours.

Who are your favourite saints?

Who would you like to learn from a little more when it comes to living the Christian life?

In our Gospel reading (Matthew 5: 1-12) this morning, Christ tells us who his saints are.

In the Beatitudes, Christ tells the crowd and the disciples that the holy ones, the blessed ones, the ones who should be our best examples, include these people:

The poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;

Those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

The meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

The merciful, for they will receive mercy.

The pure in heart, for they will see God.

The peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Us, you and me, ‘when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.’

Some years ago, Father Brian D’Arcy quipped in a radio interview how Dorothy Day once spoke of how her fellow Roman Catholics went to confession regularly and confessed to ‘breaking’ one of the Ten Commandments, but she wondered how often they confessed to ‘breaking’ one of the Eight Beatitudes.

On Sunday morning, at the Family Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, we saw how the Ten Commandments can be grouped into two sets, those about loving God, and those about loving others.

So too, we might see the Beatitudes set out in two groups of four.

The first four are inward looking: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

The second four are outward looking: the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted.

We might see the first four Beatitudes as addressing attitudes, while the second four deal with resulting actions.

The Beatitudes are culturally embedded in our society, in our literature, in our arts. But they need not just to be thought about, but to be lived out.

Writing on the financial pages of The Guardian some years ago [17 January 2011], Terry Macalister wrote: ‘From Tolstoy to Dostoevsky to Chekov, if anyone can tell a good story it’s the Russians. Well, in Chapter 2 of Boris Pasternak’s great Russian novel Doctor Zhivago, Larissa Feodorovna Guishar, who “was not religious” and “did not believe in ritual,” was startled by the Beatitudes, for she thought they were about herself.

The Beatitudes bring together religious belief and religious practice. As our Preface in our Eucharistic Prayer invites us to pray, the saints are not only an example of godly living, but they also invite us to ‘run with perseverance the race that is set before us.’

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

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the All Saints’ Day Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, on Wednesday 1 November 2017.

Some Hymns:

The East Window in All Saints’ Church, Cambridge, has 20 figures alluding to all the saints and is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

459: ‘For all the saints, who from their labours rest,’ by Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897).

464: ‘God, whose city’s sure foundation.’

All Saints … remembered in a street sign in All Saints’ Estate, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Penitential Kyries, Peace, Preface and Blessing:

Penitential Kyries:

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You are loving to all,
and your mercy is over all your creation.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your faithful servants bless your name,
and speak of the glory of your kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow citizens with the saints
and the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached peace to those who were far off
and those who were near (Ephesians 2: 19, 17).

The Preface:

In the saints
you have given us an example of godly living,
that rejoicing in their fellowship,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
and with them receive the unfading crown of glory ...

Blessing:

God give you grace
to share the inheritance of all his saints in glory ...

Some suggestions for Prayers:

God of the past,
on this feast of All Saints
we remember before you, with thanks,
the lives of those Christians who have gone before us:
the great leaders and thinkers,
those who have died for their faith,
those whose goodness transformed all they did;
Give us grace to follow their example and continue their work.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of the present,
on this feast of All Saints
we remember before you
those who have more recently died,
giving thanks for their lives and example and for all that they have meant to us.
We pray for those who grieve
and for all who suffer throughout the world:
for the hungry, the sick, the victims of violence and persecution.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of the future,
on this feast of All Saints
we remember before you the newest generation of your saints,
and pray for the future of the church
and for all who nurture and encourage faith.

God of love
grant our prayer.

We give you thanks
for the whole company of your saints
with whom in fellowship we join our prayers and praises
in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Collect:

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post-Communion Prayer:

God, the source of all holiness
and giver of all good things:
May we who have shared at this table
as strangers and pilgrims here on earth
be welcomed with all your saints
to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Getting to All Saints … a street sign in All Saints’ Estate, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

An unusual 17th century house
in the heart of Ballingarry

The Turret is a distinctive 17th century house in Ballingarry, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Turret in Ballingarry, Co Limerick, is a distinctive property and a 17th century listed building with an interesting history.

The Turret stands on a height above the village, beside the Roman Catholic parish church. It is in a private setting that is not overlooked, and yet two minutes stroll from the heart of the village.

The Turret may take its name from its distinctive 17th century Dutch gable. But, according to local lore, it is so named because it incorporates the turret of the old Priory of the Knights Hospitaller.

The first house is said to have been built by a branch of the de Lacy family, who owned nearby Ballingarry Castle until they lost their estates in the area during the wars and political turmoil in the second half of the 17th century.

Ballingarry Castle passed to the Odell family, and when Major John Odell failed to secure a grant to rebuild the castle, he built The Turret, incorporating the Templar bastion.

The unusual and distinctive Dutch gable masks a roof ridge at right angles to the ridge on the main block. Odell decorated this Dutch gable with the three crescents on his coat of arms and the date 1683.

The Odell family was living at Ballingarry from the late 17th century, and Major John Odell was granted 1,679 acres in Co Limerick in 1667. The family intermarried with the Fitzmaurice family, Earls of Kerry, and with the Fennell, Crone, Bayly, Scanlan and Westropp families.

Thomas Odell was living at The Turret in 1814 and Mrs Odell of the Turret died in 1818, according to parish records of that parish. Fitzgerald in 1826 refers to Jackson’s Turret, built on a hill and ‘now nearly in ruins.’ Bence Jones says a porch and new wing were added in the late 19th century when the house became a presbytery.

The Cross and the Crescents on the gable of The Turret (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Above Odell’s heraldic crescents and the date 1683 are a cross and the date 1890, added when the house was turned into a presbytery. Local lore says that the parish priest, mistaking the heraldic crescents in the Odell arms for Islamic emblems, insisted that the cross should be placed above it for safety.

This substantial late 17th century house was remodelled in the late 19th century with a balanced proportioned façade, yet it still retains its significant early form and features such as the heavy projecting chimneystacks.

The diminishing windows enliven the façade and are typical of classically inspired buildings. The house forms an attractive and interesting feature in the rural landscape.

The Turret has about 3,500 sq ft of accommodation spread over three floors and over five levels. Since buying the house 12 years ago, the present owners have upgraded the heating system and replaced the kitchen.

The house had many charming original features, including the entrance porch with stained-glass windows, a drawing room with a limestone fireplace, a study with timber panelling, and a living room with an ornate marble fire place.

The ground floor has a large kitchen and a living room with a wood-burning stove, a utility room, and a wood-panelled office. The first floor includes the dining room and drawing room with a marble fireplace and the library. The main bathroom and a walk-in airing cupboard are on the lower return. There are three double bedrooms on the top floor, and a master bedroom beside the second bathroom on the upper return.

The gardens include a plantation of over 1,500 trees with a mix of deciduous and coniferous native trees extending over almost three acres, planted extensively over the last decade. The grounds also have a large polytunnel, and there is an ancient ring fort on the site.

The house is approached along a large driveway, or by limestone steps leading up from the footpath on the street. It has been recently painted and restoration work has been carried out on the turret end of the house.

The asking price was recently reduced from €575,000 to €495,000, and the selling agent, Helen Cassidy, says The Turret is in excellent decorative order.

All negotiations are being conducted through Helen Cassidy, MRICS, BA (Mod) MSCSI, Auctioneer and Valuer, Clonbur House, Clonbur, Co Galway.

The Turret was refurbished in the 19th century as a presbytery and is now on the market (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)