Saturday, 24 February 2018

‘The Prince of Wales’ in
Lichfield changed its name
before they closed the doors

The former Prince of Wales on Bore Street … empty and abandoned, it is one of Lichfield’s lost locals (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

When I was still in my late teens, in the late 1960s or the early 1970s, the first pub in Lichfield I ever had a drink in was the Prince of Wales on Bore Street. It was then a well-loved community pub, close to the corner of Bore Street and Saint John Street.

Today, this former public house is in a sad state, its doors are closed and its windows are boarded up. But appearances can be deceptive, and this is a Grade II listed building.

Having written in recent weeks about some lost Lichfield pubs, including the Castle Inn on Market Street and the Three Crowns on Breadmarket Street, I had promised to write about the lost Prince of Wales.

Although this is an early 19th century public house, it has an earlier timber-frame structure that indicates this building may date back to the mid- or late 16th century.

The building as it is seen on Bore Street today displays late 19th alterations. This is a three-storey, three-window-range building, with a stucco façade, a tile roof and a brick end-stack. There is a plinth, a first-floor sill band and a top frieze.

The entrance has a doorcase with a cornice and paired two-fielded-panel doors. The ground floor windows have sills, and rusticated wedge lintels over three-light and four-light transomed casements with stained glass panels, although the boarding makes it difficult to known how much of this stained-glass has survived in recent years. There was rere access from a laneway that opened onto Saint John Street.

There are similar three-light windows on the first floor. The second-floor windows have sills and three-light casements. An early 20th century scrolled iron sign bracket once hung over the door with a traditional sign displaying the feathers that are part of the symbol of the Prince of Wales, but it has been missing for many years.

The pub was known as the Queen’s Head 200 years ago in 1818, when Thomas Whitehouse was the licensee. Later, George Sharman was running the pub from 1830 to 1834.

The queen who gave the pub its original name must have been Queen Caroline, who was queen from 1820, when her husband succeeded as King George IV on 29 January 1820, until her death on 7 August 1821.

King George tried to divorce her, but Caroline refused and returned to Britain to assert her position as queen. She was widely popular among the public, who sympathised with her and despised the new king’s lifestyle. Her husband barred Caroline from his coronation in July 1821, she fell ill in London and died three weeks later. There were popular public showings of grief at her funeral procession as it passed through the streets of London.

Perhaps there is some historic humour in the fact that the Queen’s Head and the George IV once stood at opposite ends of Bore Street, and that the couple had married when he was Prince of Wales.

When the road from the Walsall Road into Lichfield was straightened out in the 1830s, a new street was laid out and a new pub was built on the north side. As both street and pub were completed in Queen Victoria’s coronation year, they were named Queen Street and the Queen’s Head, with the new pub taking away the name of the Queen’s Head on Bore Street.

Meanwhile, under the management of William and Thomas Riley, the old Queen’s Head on Bore Street became the Turf Tavern in the 1840s, and it kept this name until the 1860s.

The Turf Tavern then became the Prince of Wales in 1868, when it was taken over by the ffrench family, who managed the pub for about 30 years. The Prince of Wales at the time was the future Edward VII.

In 1890, the Prince of Wales Inn on Bore Street was on a list of tied houses in the Lichfield and Tamworth area bought by the Lichfield Brewery Co Ltd from the Old Lichfield Brewery Co Ltd.

The Prince of Wales on Bore Street in the 1960s (Photograph found on Pinterest, source unknown)

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the Prince of Wales remained a traditional local pub, and it was a meeting place for a variety of local organisations, including football clubs, darts teams and ex-service groups, and with Christmas parties.

But in recent years these premises have suffered a series of non-traditional name changes and lost its reputation as a traditional ‘local.’ It was renamed Piper’s when it became a piano bar in the 1990s. Other names included Chameleon until 2005, and then San Sero, when it was a tapas bar. The last name before finally closing was the Feria – a name that has remained on the façade since the doors closed for the last time.

Last year [August 2017], a photograph of the Prince of Wales and Bore Street taken around 1900 featured in CityLife in Lichfield in ‘A Window on the Past, Wish You Were Here …’ in a collection of nine photographs and old postcards.

Sadly, this once bustling pub has been derelict and boarded up for a number of years, many of the features that resulted in its listing as a Grade II building are in danger of being lost, and memories of the community life once celebrated at its bar are fading.

The Queen’s Head on Queen Street … the name was taken from the original name of the former Prince of Wales on Bore Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Additional reading:

John Shaw, The Old Pubs of Lichfield (Lichfield: George Lane Publishing, 2001/2007).

Neil Coley, Lichfield Pubs (Stroud: Amberley, 2016), 96 pp

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 11:
Longford 9: Jesus
falls a third time

Station 9 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus falls a third time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 9: Jesus falls a third time

This is one of the traditional stations that does not recall an event in any of the passion narratives in the four Gospels. However, Ken Thompson has made this a Biblical scene by linking it with the Last Supper and more particularly with the story of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The angel with the filled cup in Station IX, and the chalice that is seen again in Station XIII, recall both the Last Supper and Gethsemane.

The words in terracotta capital lettering at the bottom of the panel read: ‘Yet Not My Will But Thine Be Done.’ The angel, the cup and the depiction of Christ falling to the ground recall this part of the story of the agony in the Garden. recalled by Saint Luke:

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground (Luke 22: 39-44). The parallel accounts, in Matthew 26: 36-46 and Mark 14: 32-36, do not mention the visiting angel.

There are still signs of hope in this panel: the daffodil blooming in the bottom right corner, and the green shoots on the branch in the top left corner (see Mark 13: 28).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
O thou Mother! Fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above.
Make my heart with thine accord.

Meditation:

Brutalised. Dazed. Beyond strength.
Now nearly on Calvary’s broad summit, Jesus collapses.
Poles long set into the ground are silhouetted against gray clouds.
Impatiently, Jesus is pulled up and shoved angrily toward his death.

Prayers:

Loving Lord, you fell that we might rise and taught us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Help us to die to ourselves so that we might live to you and bear much fruit for your Kingdom. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, your journey has been long. You fall again, beneath your cross. You know your journey is coming to an end. You struggle and struggle. You get up and keep going.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Daffodils blooming in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, earlier this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Tomorrow: Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his clothes.

Yesterday’s reflection

Friday, 23 February 2018

A new book brings
back memories of
many cups of coffee

Patrick Comerford

The Interfaith Working Group of the Church of Ireland has organised a consultation on interfaith matters in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, next Friday [2 March 2018].

The consultation is being introduced by Bishop Kenneth Kearon of Limerick and Killaloe, who chairs the Interfaith Working Group, and the speakers include Bishop Toby Howarth of Bradford and the Revd Suzanne Cousins of Moville, Co Donegal.

Bishop Toby Howarth has worked extensively on interfaith relations in the Church of England.

Before his appointment as Bishop of Bradford, he was Inter-Faith Adviser to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs and National Adviser for Inter-Religious Affairs for the Church of England.

In the morning session, he is speaking on the report Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue, produced by the Anglican Communion Network for Interfaith Concerns, and on how the Church of England approaches interfaith issues.

I have been invited to chair the afternoon session when the Revd Suzanne Cousins will present her dissertation, Generous Love in Multi-Faith Ireland, which is being published at a book launch in CITI later next month [14 March 2018].

Her book is the published version of her MTh dissertation for TCD, which I had the joy of supervising at CITI. While she was working on this dissertation in 2015-2016, Suzanne also received the Oulton Prize for Patristics, which enabled her to join me at the summer school in Sidney Sussex College organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. The topic of the summer school that year was ‘Christian Faith, Identity and Otherness: Possibilities and Limitations of Dialogue in Ecumenical and Interfaith Discourse’ [31 August to 2 September 2015].

She quotes me in a number of places in her book, and she is generous when she says in her acknowledgements (p 5): ‘I am especially grateful to my academic supervisor, the Revd Canon Patrick Comerford, for generously sharing with me his time, wisdom and expertise, and for his example of living engagement.’

This dissertation was a journey for both of us. It took Suzanne to many places I too enjoy, from Istanbul to Cambridge. Reading it this week brings back many memories of the process of supervision, many cups of coffee in Dublin, and even discussions in cafés in Cambridge and in Sidney Sussex College.

Memories of a summer school in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph; Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Ireland Gazette today [23 February 2018]carries this news report on Suzanne’s new book on the back page:

Forthcoming Braemor Studies book
looks at Christian-Muslim engagement
in the Church of Ireland


Generous Love in Multi-faith Ireland: Towards mature citizenship and a positive pedagogy for the Church of Ireland in local Christian-Muslim mission and engagement is the title of a new book to be launched in March by the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson.

Written by the Revd Suzanne Cousins, the book is the eighth in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute’s ‘Braemor Studies’ series and is published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP).

It straddles the fields of Missiology and History of Religions, and is influenced by [Jurgen] Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, [Miroslav] Volf’s Theology of Embrace, and by the biblical hermeneutics and theological ethics of [Paul] Ricoeur (inhabiting the text, equivalence, superabundance and economy of gift).

The author reflects on the creative approach of the fourth-century-saint, Ephrem the Syrian, to interpreting Scripture and teaching orthodoxy. The question of the oneness and plurality of God as a theological concern for some Christians is explored, and whether the referents ‘God’ and ‘Allah’ are to the same God though differently understood is discussed, along with the contribution of Volf and others to this debate.

In addition, the theology and eirenic praxis of Christians who engaged with Muslims in the early Islamic world, including Francis of Assisi, are examined, while the desire of present-day Christians to be faithful in their allegiance to Jesus Christ – to his uniqueness, divinity, and status and identity as Lord – while engaging locally in Christian-Muslim encounter, is also explored.

Finally, the book identifies theological and pastoral challenges and concerns for clergy assisting their parishioners in everyday Christian-Muslim relationships.

In keeping with the inter-faith theme of the book, was extended to Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, the Head-Imam of Al-Mustafa Islamic Education & Cultural Centre Ireland, has accepted an invitation to attend the launch which will take place on Wednesday 14th March at 6.00pm at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin.

Copies of the book will be available for sale at the launch and thereafter through the Church of Ireland’s online bookstore and through the Book Well in Belfast for €6/£5.

A book that brings back memories of many cups of coffee and discussions in cafés in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 10:
Longford 8: Jesus meets
the women of Jerusalem

Station 8 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Later this evening [23 February 2018], I am speaking at a meeting of the Methodist Women of Ireland in the Methodist Church in Adare, Co Limerick. They have asked me to speak about my journey in life to ordained ministry.

In the journey along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary, we have arrived this morning at Station VIII, where Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Saint Luke is alone among the Gospel writers to tell the story recalled in this station:

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ (Luke 23: 26-35).

The ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’ are mentioned several times in the Song of Solomon (see 1: 5, 2: 7, 3: 10-11, 5: 8, 5: 16). For example: ‘O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, tell him this: I am faint with love’ (Song of Solomon 5: 8).
As the muse of the Beloved, the Daughters of Jerusalem help her choose rightly between the flashy wealth of the king and the ardent true love of the Shepherd. So we should expect the Daughters of Jerusalem in this scene to be filled with the love of God, to realise they have met their shepherd and their king.

In his response to these women, Jesus alludes to three Biblical passages. There may be an echo of Jeremiah 16: 1-4, where the prophet cited Israel’s devastation to explain why he had no wife or children. He quotes an expression of despair in Hosea 10: 8: ‘They shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us.’ This portrays people desperately crying for mountains and hills to provide shelter. And he refers to Ezekiel 20: 47: ‘Thus says the Lord God, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from south to north shall be scorched by it.’

In this station in Longford, the Daughters of Jerusalem are represented by three women. One is clutching her child fretfully, the second is heavily pregnant, holding one hand against the chid in her womb and holding her daughter by the other, while the third woman has fallen to her knees in the path before Christ. In the background, six green shoots reflect Christ’s reference to the time ‘when the wood is green.’

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel reads: ‘He Will Wipe Away Tears From All Eyes.’ This is a reference to both Isaiah and the Book of Revelation: ‘he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth’ (Isaiah 25: 8); ‘he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away’ (Revelation 21: 4).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
For the sins of His own nation
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His Spirit forth He sent.

Meditation:

Tears. Wailing. Daughters. Mothers. Grief.
Women beat their breasts and mourn openly,
for the Son of Man, but his concern is for them and their children
in the days of woe yet to come.

Prayers:

Son of Man, you told the women of Jerusalem to weep not for you but for themselves and their children. Give us the gift of tears for our own sins, that we may mourn the ways in which we fall short of the glory of God that we may truly repent and return to you. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, as you carry your cross, you see a group of women along the road. As you pass by, you see they are sad. You stop to spend a moment with them, to offer them some encouragement. Although you have been abandoned by your friends and are in pain, you stop and try to help them.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 9: Jesus falls a third time.

Yesterday’s reflection

A painting of Jerusalem once seen in Little Jerusalem in Rathmines, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Narrative 4 brings social change
through story-telling in Limerick

The Narrative 4 offices in Limerick … encouraging empathy through story-telling (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I heard interviews on RTÉ recently with the Irish author Colum McCann and John Moran, once one of the most senior civil servants in Ireland and now chair of the Hunt Museum in Limerick. Both interviews last weekend sent me in search of the Limerick offices of Narrative 4 earlier this week and to find out more about this unique organisation.

Narrative 4 opened its first global base on O’Connell Street, Limerick, in October 2016. It is a not-for-profit organisation promoting social change through storytelling and believes the world can be changed through the art of stories.

This global arts-education organisation was formed to foster empathy through storytelling and with the aim of breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes.

It was co-founded by Colum McCann and dozens of other artists from around the world, and changes the way individuals interact with their communities by developing action-oriented empathetic leaders and citizens.

Narrative 4 has partnerships with organisations, educators, and students around the world to ensure their story exchanges can reflect local concerns on a global level. This work has been shared on four continents, and the countries include Ireland, Mexico, Rwanda, Israel, South Africa, Palestine, England and the US.

Narrative 4 Ireland is chaired by John Moran, former Secretary General of the Department of Finance and now chair of the Hunt Museum in Limerick. At the offices on O’Connell Street, Limerick, James Lawlor is the Narrative 4 Regional Director and Sheila Quealey facilitates programmes. They are backed by a large team of volunteers and supporters.

The Narrative 4 Executive Director, Lisa Consiglio, and Global Director of Programmes, Lee Keylock, based in New York, also devote a lot of their time and expertise to setting up Narrative 4 in Europe.

‘The Limerick community has been incredibly welcoming and wonderful. Limerick City and County Council and the Limerick Economic Forum must be commended for their work in creating a start-up culture in the city,’ James Lawlor said in a recent interview.

‘We were looking for a city that could be a hub of creative activity and a model for the growth that we will foster internationally and Limerick more than fits that bill,’ he told the interviewer. ‘Limerick has a lot of friends and supporters in New York City, where N4 is based, and they asked us to come to the city and see for ourselves the energy that was here.’

Narrative 4, now based in the former library in O’Connell Street, has brought Irish and international students, educators and artists to Limerick in lead workshops in storytelling, art and creative writing using a cutting-edge curriculum designed by some of the biggest literary talents in the world. The centre is an ideas lab for young people interested in volunteerism, advocacy and social entrepreneurship, using state-of-the-art technology to globally connect young people.

Narrative 4 has the backing of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Star Wars director JJ Abrams, among many others.

Colum McCann says ‘Narrative 4 is like a United Nations for young storytellers, the whole idea behind it is that the one true democracy we have is storytelling. It goes across borders, boundaries, genders, rich, poor – everybody has a story to tell.’

There’s more about Narrative 4 HERE.

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 9:
Longford 7: Jesus falls
for the second time

Station 7 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus falls for the second time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week on Ash Wednesday and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 7: Jesus falls for the second time

Station 7 also illustrates a story that is not told any of the four Gospel accounts of Christ’s journey to Calvary, although the popular numbering of three falls may have a Trinitarian intention.

In this station in Longford, as Christ falls to his knees beneath the weight of his cross, he is punished by three figures: two beat him with sticks and stones, while a third berates him verbally.

A woman in his path also falls to her knees. She is anonymous, for she has no halo, but her hands and arms are crossed, as if to say she is asking for a blessing.

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel reads: ‘For We Have Been Healed by His Wounds.’ This seems refer to both Isaiah (‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed’ Isaiah 53: 5), and I Peter (‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed’ I Peter 2: 24).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

Meditation:

Oppressed. Afflicted. Silently suffering.
Simon carries the cross, yet Jesus cannot continue.
He bears our infirmities and carries our sorrows.
Crushed under their weight, Jesus falls once more.

Prayers:

Compassionate Christ, all we like sheep have gone astray, turning each of us to our own way. Grant that when we fall into sin, we may return from going our own way to following in yours. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

This is the second time you have fallen on the road. As the cross grows heavier and heavier, it becomes more difficult to get up. But you continue to struggle and try until you are up and walking again. You do not give up.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Yesterday’s reflection

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Portrait of a radical Dean
is brought back to life in
Saint Mary’s Cathedral

Dean Henry Lucius O’Brien … a full-length portrait in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

One of the delights of visiting Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, on Sunday last to preside and preach at the Cathedral Eucharist, to see how the new dean has cleared away years of accumulated clutter and brought light into once-dim or hidden corners.

Robing in the dean’s office, I noticed for the first time a fine, almost life-size portrait of one of his predecessors, the Very Revd Lucius Henry O’Brien (1842-1913), who was the Dean of Limerick from 1905 to 1913.

The full-length portrait shows Dean O’Brien with his Irish wolfhound by his hand, and the River Shannon and Saint Mary’s Cathedral in the background.

Lucius Henry O’Brien was born at Cahermoyle, Co Limerick, on 13 August 1842. His father, the Young Ireland patriot, William Smith O’Brien (1803-1864), was MP for Limerick and inherited Cahermoyle, Ardagh, Co Limerick, from his mother. Cahermoyle is now within the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, 9 km west of Rathkeale and 14 km south-west of Askeaton.

Dean O’Brien’s grandfather was Sir Edward O’Brien of Dromoland Castle, Co Clare. The dean’s aunt, Harriet Monsell (1811-1883), married Canon Charles Henry Monsell (1815-1851), who was Curate of Aghadoe, near Killarney, Co Kerry, and Prebendary of Donaghamore (1843-1851) in the Chapter of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

When the Thomond peerages became extinct in 1855 with the death of James O’Brien, 3rd Marquess of Thomond and 7th Earl of Thomond, it seemed the ancient O’Brien titles had come to an end. However, Harriet’s eldest brother and the future dean’s uncle, Sir Lucius O’Brien, was surprisingly successful in taking his claim to an obscure and almost-forgotten 16th century title to the Committee for Privileges of the House of Lords, and in 1862 he became the 13th Baron Inchiquin.

As a result of the decision in the Lords, Lord Inchiquin’s four surviving sisters and two of his three surviving brothers were given a royal licence to use ‘the style and precedence of the younger sons of a baron’ – meaning, in effect, they could put the prefix ‘The Hon’ in front of their names.

The other surviving brother was Dean O’Brien’s father, William Smith O’Brien, MP for Co Limerick. He had inherited the Cahirmoyle estate in Co Limerick through his mother, Charlotte Smith, whose father had bailed the O’Briens out of threatened bankruptcy. Charlotte was one of the founding lights of the women’s branch of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), and William Smith O’Brien was proud of his mother’s humanitarian work among the starving and homeless famine victims of Co Clare in 1847.

A year later, on the 50th anniversary of the 1798 Rising, William Smith O’Brien, led the Young Ireland insurrection, and after the failure of the Battle of Ballingarry, he was deported to Tasmania. Eventually, he was pardoned in 1854 and allowed to return home to Co Limerick. Despite being snobbily snubbed by the House of Lords two years before his death, O’Brien is commemorated today by a statue at the south end of O’Connell Street, Dublin.

In the year the House of Lords snubbed William Smith O’Brien, his elder daughter, Lucy Josephine, married the Very Revd John Gwynn, Dean of Raphoe and Regius Professor of Divinity at Trinity College Dublin.

At one time, three Gwynn brothers were prominent in TCD so that it was referred to jokingly as ‘Gwynnity College’. Dean Gwynn’s son, the Revd Professor Robert Malcolm Gwynn, shared his grandfather’s radical political outlook: it is said that the concept of the Irish Citizens’ Army was born in his college rooms, and later, as senior master, he introduced social studies to TCD. His daughter, equally active in campaigning on social issues, was the late Mercy Simms, wife of Archbishop George Simms.

Three of the patriot MP’s sisters were married into clerical families: Anne was the wife of Canon Arthur Martineau of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London; Katherine married Bishop Charles Harris of Gibraltar; and in 1839 Harriet married Canon Charles Henry Monsell, youngest son of the Ven Thomas Bewley Monsell, Archdeacon of Derry and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Harriet and Charles had no children, and after his death in 1851 she founded one of the first Anglican religious communities of women, the Community of Saint John the Baptist at Clewer, near Windsor in Berkshire. The order soon spread to India, South Africa and North America.

Harriet Monsell House seen to the right of the room in Liddon where I stayed at Ripon College Cuddesdon in 2013 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It seems only natural that her nephew, Lucius Henry O’Brien, would pursue a career in radical politics or seek ordination. He was educated at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and Trinity College Dublin (BA 1865, MA 1874), and was ordained in 1867.

He was ordained at Salisbury Cathedral in 1869 and became a curate in Mere in Wiltshire, on the edge of the Salisbury Plain, before returning to Ireland as a curate in Ramelton, Co Donegal, where his brother-in-law, John Gwynn, was the rector.

In 1872, he married Emily Mary Hannah Montgomery (1848-1942) from Beaulieu, Co Louth, on the banks of the River Boyne.

Lucius Henry O’Brien returned to his native Co Limerick in 1878 as Rector of Adare. There he was also a canon and then Treasurer of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. When he was elected Dean of Limerick in 1905, it was seen as an appropriate appointment, as the O’Briens were credited with founding Saint Mary’s Cathedral in the 12th century.

While he was dean, his works in the cathedral included the new reredos in the chancel, carved in 1907 by James Pearse, father of the 1916 rebel leader Patrick Pearse.

Dean O’Brien died on 25 September 1913. In the year he died, his nephew, the Revd Professor Robert Malcolm Gwynn (1877-1962), was one of the founding figures in the Irish Citizens’ Army. He helped to conduct the funeral in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, which included John Ellerton’s hymn ‘Now the Labourer’s Task is O’er.’

His obituary in the Limerick Chronicle said: ‘He was most sympathetic to the poor, and a generous friend to all local charities.’ The charities he was involved with directly included the Limerick Protestant Orphan Society and Barrington’s Hospital. His wife Emily died on 6 June 1942 at the age of 94.

The Lancet Windows by Catherine O’Brien in the Jebb Chapel commemorating the the Very Revd Lucius Henry O’Brien, a former Dean of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Dean O’Brien is commemorated in the cathedral in a pair of stained-glass lancet windows by Catherine O’Brien. The memorial windows by Catherine O’Brien, measuring 1360 mm x 330 mm, depict Saint Luke (left) and the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child (right), and one tracery-light above depicts a winged ox, the traditional symbol for Saint Luke the Evangelist.

The lettering reads: ‘To the Glory of God’ (above), and (below): ‘In loving memory of Lucius Henry O’Brien, Dean of this Cathedral from 1905 to 1913. Erected by the family.’

His memorial in the cathedral describes him as ‘a strong man, ever seeking the larger light, upholder of the truth, worthy of his name. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’ It adds: ‘After God, his country, and his kindred he loved most this cathedral for which he did much and all that in his power lay.’

The portrait is the work of his nephew, the landscape and portrait artist, William Dermod O’Brien (1865-1945).

Dermod O’Brien was born at Mount Trenchard House, near Foynes, Co Limerick, on 10 June 1865. His father was Dean O’Brien’s brother, Edward William O’Brien; his mother, the Hon Mary Spring Rice, was a granddaughter of Lord Monteagle.

For a time after his mother’s death, Dermod O’Brien was raised at Cahermoyle by his aunt, the nationalist activist Charlotte Grace O’Brien (1845-1909), along with his sisters Nelly and Lucy, until their father married again in 1880.

Dermod O’Brien was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. After graduating from Cambridge, he travelled to Paris, where he studied the paintings at the Louvre. In 1887, he visited galleries in Italy and then enrolled at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, where he was a fellow student of Walter Osborne. Back in Paris, he studied at Académie Julian, before moving to London in 1893 and Dublin in 1901. In 1902, he married Mabel Emmeline Smyly, daughter of Sir Philip Crampton Smyly.

He became an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1906, a member in 1907, and later was president between 1910 and 1945 (PRHA). He was made an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London in 1912. He was High Sheriff of Co Limerick in 1916 and was Deputy Lieutenant of Co Limerick. He died on 3 October 1945.

Dean O’Brien’s nephew, the Revd Professor Robert Malcolm Gwynn, died in 1962; Catherine O’Brien died in 1963; they are both buried in Whitechurch Churchyard in south Co Dublin.

Meanwhile, Mother Harriet Monsell is remembered in the Calendar of Saints in Common Worship in the Church of England and in other parts of the Anglican Communion on 26 March. She is also commemorated in the name of Harriet Monsell House in Ripon College Cuddesdon, near Oxford, where her community helped build the prize-winning college chapel.

The chapel built at Ripon College Cuddesdon, near Oxford, by the community founded by Harriet Monsell … it was voted into second place in the prestigious architectural prize, the Stirling Prize (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 8:
Longford 6: Veronica
wipes the face of Jesus

Station 6 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Veronica wipes the face of Jesus (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral a week ago [Ash Wednesday, 14 February 2018] and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Station 6 illustrates a story that is not told any of the four Gospel accounts of Christ’s journey to Calvary, although there are some parallels with the story of the woman who was healed miraculously by touching the hem Christ’s garment (Luke 8: 43-48).

In this station in Longford, Veronica is on her knees, offering her veil with both her hands. Christ stretches out his left hand, while Simon of Cyrene continues to prop up the Cross. All three are crowned with haloes.

Once again, a daffodil has come to full bloom, seen on the ground between Veronica and Christ, a sing of hope in Spring-time. In William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (Act 4, Scene 3), Perdita speaks of

... ... Daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty ...


Above, in this Station an owl observes the scene, hovering above the head of Saint Veronica as an omen of death.

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel reads: ‘When Can I Enter & See the Face of God.’ This seems to be a reference to Psalm 42: ‘My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?’ (Psalm Luke 42: 2).

According to tradition, Veronica is moved with sympathy when she sees Christ carrying his cross and gives him her veil to wipe his forehead. When he hands back the veil, it is marked with the image of his face.

In the Middle Ages, there was a mistaken idea that the name Veronica was derived from the Latin vera (true) and Greek eikon (image). But, in fact, Veronica is a Latin transliteration of the Greek name Berenice (Βερενίκη). This, in turn, was the Macedonian form of the Athenian Φερενίκη (Phereníkē) or Φερονίκη (Pheroníkē), meaning ‘she who brings victory.’ It became popular because of its use by the Ptolemies, the Seleucids and other dynasties in the east Mediterranean.

The popular mediaeval stories that developed in the West around the figure of Veronica have their counterpart in the East in the legends about King Abgar of Edessa and the Mandylion, also known as ‘The Icon not made by Hands’.

A copy of ‘The Icon not made by Hands’ or the ‘Mandylion’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?

Meditation:

Cloth. Sweat. Blood. Icon. Legend tells of a woman wiping Jesus’ face and
gaining an image of Christ painted in his blood on her cloth.
In relieving the suffering of others we, too, find the face of Jesus.

Prayers:

Immanuel, God with us, you came as the image of God made flesh and we scorned you. May we seek not to do great things in your name, but to honour you with small acts of mercy done with great love. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, suddenly a woman comes out of the crowd. Her name is Veronica. You can see how she cares for you as she takes a cloth and begins to wipe the blood and sweat from your face. She cannot do much, but she offers what little help she can.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 7: Jesus falls for the second time.

Yesterday’s reflection

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

A revolutionary and strange priest
who moved from Boston to Limerick

The Limerick Civic Trust plaque in Arthur’s Quay shopping centre commemorating John Thayer … but who was he and who were the Thayerites? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

On a stroll through Arthur’s Quay shopping centre in Limerick after presiding at the Sung Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, I noticed a plaque erected by Limerick Civic Trust at the Patrick Street entrance that reads:

Rev. John Thayer
1755-1815
Born in Boston,
chaplain to George Washington’s
army before he came to Limerick.
A most dedicated clergyman
who was so popular that
his followers were known
as the “Thayerites”.
He died here.


The plaque does not say which Church Thayer had ministered in, I had never heard of him before, and I had never heard of the ‘Thayerites.’

My curiosity was sparked, and I decided to find out more about this American chaplain who had died in Limerick over two centuries ago. It is a story that stretches from Boston to Paris, Rome and London, before returning to America and eventually ending in Limerick.

John Thayer (1755-1815) was the first native-born man from New England to be ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.

Thayer was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1755. His family were among the early Puritan settlers of New England and throughout his career, it is said, he continued to display a stern, unbending Puritan character.

He was educated at Yale and was ordained as a Congregationalist minister and during the American Revolutionary War he was chaplain to a company organised for the defence of Boston and commanded by John Hancock. But he had never been a chaplain to George Washington.

After the American War of Independence, Thayer embarked on the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe to better prepare himself for a teaching career at Harvard. He travelled throughout Europe, and he was in Rome in 1783 when the mendicant, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, died that year. Thayer became a Roman Catholic, saying his conversion was brought about by the miracles attributed to the saint.

Thayer tried to dispute some of the miracles attributed to the monk, who was later canonised by Pope Leo XIII in 1883. Instead, he became convinced of the man’s saintliness and he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius VI on 25 May 1783.

His account of his conversion was printed in 1787 and went through several editions in the US, London and Ireland, and was also translated into French and Spanish. His conversion was one of the first of prominent New England Protestants, and caused a sensation in New England: both Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster scoffed at Thayer’s conversion, and one of his former Congregationalist colleagues called him ‘John Turncoat.’

Thayer studied for the priesthood with the Sulpician order in Paris, and was ordained priest by the Archbishop of Paris on the Ember Saturday of Pentecost 1787, and celebrated his first Mass the next day, Trinity Sunday.

He worked among the poor in Southwark in London for less than three years before returning to America in December 1789. On his arrival back at Baltimore, Bishop John Carroll (1735-1815), the Jesuit and founder of Georgetown University, sent him to Boston, where his congregation consisted of one American, four Frenchmen, and about 24 poor Irish immigrants.

Thayer had a chequered career, mainly due to his erratic and confrontational temperament. He was a forceful and not always tactful polemicist in his sermons, printed tracts, and frequent newspaper articles. After a brief and difficult time in Boston, he was sent to the scattered Catholic communities first in Alexandria, Virginia, and then in Kentucky.

He made a name for himself as a Catholic voice against slavery. But his travels in the South were short-lived, and within four years he had left again for Europe in 1803.

He visited London, La Trappe in France, and Dublin, and in 1811 he settled in Limerick, where he lived the life of an ascetic and where he was much more successful in his ministry. In Limerick, he was regarded as a priest of edifying piety and ascetic life. But he had no charge, as parish priest or curate, although he said Mass and heard confessions in Saint Michael’s Parish and Saint John’s Parish and often preached sermons that were controversial.

When he first came to Limerick, confessions were rare except at Easter. But his sermons encouraged many to confess monthly and even more frequently. His large number of penitents were nicknamed Thayerites by those who opposed this form of piety.

Father Thayer stayed at Patrick Street in Limerick in the home of James Ryan, a prosperous cloth merchant, and was French tutor to the youngest daughter in the family, Margaret.

He died in Limerick on 15 February 1815 in the Ryan house, which stood on the site of the entrance to Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre. He was buried in the churchyard at Saint John’s Church of Ireland parish church in Limerick. Since his death, he has been compared at times with the Curé of Ars.

After his death, Thayer’s estate was used by James Ryan’s three daughters to found an Ursuline convent, Mount Benedict, near Bunker Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts. They moved from Limerick to Boston in 1819, and founded their convent, the first established in New England, in 1826. However, their convent was burned down in anti-Catholic rioting on the night of 11 August 1834. The mob was ‘incited by Lyman Beecher and whiskey,’ in the words of Daniel Sargent.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick … I visited the site of the house where John Thayer died after presiding at the Sung Eucharist on Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 7:
Longford 5: Simon of Cyrene
helps Jesus carry the Cross

Station 5 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week on Ash Wednesday and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross

Station 5 illustrates the story of Simon of Cyrene, who is compelled by the Romans to carry Christ’s Cross, according to all three Synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 27: 32; Mark 15: 21-22; Luke 23-26).

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel reads: ‘But he asked Jesus who is my neighbour’ (see Luke 10: 29).

The full verse in Saint Luke’s Gospel reads: But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ The question is put by a lawyer who ‘stood up to test Jesus’ (verse 25). The answer Jesus provides is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 30-37).

The neighbour is ‘the one who showed him mercy’ (verse 37).

Simon the Cyrene is neither a lawyer nor a Samaritan, but shows himself to be a neighbour to the man who is beaten up on his journey in Jerusalem.

Cyrene was a Greek settlement in the province of Cyrenaica in east Libya in north Africa. it had a Jewish community where 100,000 Judean Jews had been forced to settle during the reign of Ptolemy Soter (323-285 BC) and later it was an early centre of Christianity. The Cyrenian Jews had a synagogue in Jerusalem, where many went for annual feasts.

Cyrene was supposedly the destination of many Sicari or rebels who fled the Roman legions at the time of the Jewish Revolt.

Some commentators suggest Simon was chosen because he may have shown sympathy for Jesus. Others point out that the text says nothing, that Simon had no choice, and that there is no basis to consider carrying the cross an act of sympathetic generosity.

In this station, Simon has a golden halo used by Ken Thompson to indicate saints. Saint Mark identifies Simon as ‘the father of Alexander and Rufus’ (Mark 15: 21). Tradition says they became missionaries, and identifies Rufus with the Rufus named by Saint Paul (see Romans 16: 13). Some traditions also link Simon with the ‘men of Cyrene’ who preached the Gospel to the Greeks (see Acts 11: 20).

Simon is depicted holding the cross with two hands, balancing the weight of the cross which has been crushing Christ’s shoulders and back as he begins to climb some steps. The cross is inscribed with the acronym or Christogram IHS. In Latin, IHS means Jesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus, Saviour of Humanity, although it is also interpreted as In Hoc Signo, ‘In this sign you will conquer.’ In Greek, ΙΗΣ or IHC denotes the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, Ιησούς; the normal equivalent Christogram in Greek is the four-letter abbreviation, ΙϹ ΧϹ, representing the first and last letters of each word in the name Ιησούς Χριστός.

There is a contrast between Simon who is free to wear sandals on his feet, and Christ whose feet are bare. In this station, there are signs of spring and of hope in the two daffodils that are blooming on either side of Simon.

At Simon’s heel in Station V, and again in Station XIII, a mouse appears as a reminder of a tradition that as a carpenter Saint Joseph made mousetraps – the mousetrap can be seen in Station XIII. But there is a less benign legend in which a mouse appears as the devil in disguise.

The Cyrenian and Simon movements in Britain and Ireland take their names from Simon of Cyrene. The guiding principle is ‘sharing the burden’ in providing services to homeless and disadvantaged groups in society.

From Stabat Mater:

Jesus Christ, crucified, have mercy on us!
Is there one who would not weep
Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to Behold?

Meditation:

Stranger. Neighbour. Friend.
Simon takes up your cross. In so doing takes up his own.
Another innocent man joins the procession to Calvary.

Prayers:

Suffering Servant, beaten beyond human semblance, through the Good Samaritan you taught us that everyone in need is our neighbour. Help us to follow in your way of love that we do not need be compelled to take up the cross of another when they cannot bear their burdens alone. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, the soldiers are becoming impatient. This is taking longer than they wanted it to. They are afraid you will not make it to the hill where you will be crucified. As you grow weaker, they grab a man out of the crowd and make him help you carry your cross. He was just watching what was happening, but all of a sudden he is helping you carry your cross.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

Yesterday’s reflection

Monday, 19 February 2018

A year later, I get to find
and visit Castle Matrix

Castle Matrix was first built by the FitzGeralds, Earls of Desmond, near Rathkeale, Co Limerick, in the mid-15th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Castle Matrix on the outskirts of Rathkeale is difficult to find. Although I have been living in the Rathkeale Group of Parishes for more than I year, I have searched in vain for the entrance to the castle, time and again.

That is, until this morning.

I have spoken and lectured a number of times about the history of the Southwell family, who lived in Castle Matrix, to both the Irish Palatine Association and Rathkeale and District Historical Society.

I knew where the castle is located, but there are no signs, and although I had seen it in the distance, I had failed to find the entrance.

However, as I walked along the banks of the River Deel this morning after speaking at the school assembly, I caught a glimpse of the castle through trees still bare after winter. I decided to act on my instincts and go in search of the pathway leading up to the castle.

This was once a welcoming place, offering hospitality, entertainment, banquets and unusual bed and breakfast. But the path leading up the castle is now overgrown, and a padlocked gate bars any entrance to the land immediately in front of the castle.

The name of Castle Matrix may be derived from the Irish ‘Caisleán Bhun Tráisce’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The name of Castle Matrix may be derived from the Irish Caisleán Bhun Tráisce, although the one sign I could find gives no explanation for the meaning of the Irish name, nor does it indicate that this is the difficult-to-find Castle Matrix.

Castle Matrix was built as a tower house in the 15th century by the FitzGeralds, Earl of Desmond.

James FitzThomas FitzGerald (1459-1487), 8th Earl of Desmond, owned Castle Matrix in 1487. He was unpopular with his servants, so they decided to get rid of their employer by murdering him. He was murdered at Rathkeale on 7 December 1487 at the age of 28, by John Murtagh, one of his servants, at the instigation of his younger brother John.

James was buried at Youghal, Co Cork,and his brother, Maurice FitzThomas FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond, avenged his death by executing every servant the FitzGeralds had in Rathkeale.

The explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (1552/1554-1618) was living at Castle Matrix in 1580, and the visitors to Castle Matrix in the Elizabethan era included his contemporary, the poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). When Edmund Spenser met Walter Raleigh here, their meeting inspired the poet to write The Faerie Queen.

In the early 1600s, Castle Matrix was granted to the Southwell family, as ‘resident undertakers.’ The Southwell family converted the castle into their manor house and added a wing in 1610. Walter Raleigh presented some Virginia Tubers to Edmund Southwell, who planted these potatoes in the land around the castle and later distributed them throughout Munster.

During the rebellions and wars of the mid-17th century, Castle Matrix captured by the Irish of Rathkeale in 1641, and fell to Cromwellian forces in 1651, when the tower was damaged by the Roundhead artillery.

But Castle Matrix was soon regained by the Southwell family, and at the Restoration King Charles II gave the title of baronet to Sir Thomas Southwell, who extended his estates in the Rathkeale area.

He died in 1680, and his son Sir Thomas Southwell (1665-1720), the second baronet, was a key figure in bringing the Palatine refugees to live in Ireland at the beginning of the 18th century. He was living in Castle Matrix when he settled 100 families on his estate at Rathkeale in 1709. Shortly before his death, he was given the additional title of Baron Southwell in 1717.

The main tower is four storeys, although there may have been another floor, and the east wall has six floors with small rooms. The looking battlements were added in the 19th century and all the windows were enlarged at this point, making the castle a comfortable house.

The surviving outbuildings at Castle Matric may include a 200-year-old mill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Samuel Lewis writes in 1837 that the flour mill at Castle Matrix ‘has been fitted up by the proprietor J Southwell Brown esq in the most complete manner,’ and that the Elizabethan square castle was being repaired.

The Ordnance Survey Field Name Book records Castlematrix as a large two-storey house, with a new castle six storeys high adjoining. John S Brown was Lord Southwell’s tenant in Castle Matrix. In the mid-19th century, the buildings including the flour mills, valued at £90.

When the rental of the castle was being sold in 1853, Castle Matrix was described as having nine bedrooms, ‘besides dressing closets, bathrooms, water closets, a large dining room, drawing room and library with extensive suites of servants’ apartments, and the entire fitted up in elegant and substantial style.’ The sale included a lithograph in which the castle is described as having been repaired and added to ‘regardless of expense.’

Castle Matrix was finally sold by the Southwell family in the early 20th century, and was bought by the Johnson family, who continued to operate the mill and who lived in the castle for some decades.

Castle Matrix gimpsed through the trees, north of Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

However, in the 1930s, the roof, doors and windows were removed to reduce taxes, and the castle was abandoned. By the 1960s, the castle had fallen into disrepair when it was bought by Colonel Sean O’Driscoll, an American architect who restored it to its former glory.

In April 1971, to great fanfare and publicity, the castle opened for mediaeval banquets, similar to those in Bunratty Castle, serving meat from Castle Matrix livestock and fresh vegetables and fruit from the castle gardens and orchards, and offering entertainment included an ‘Elizabethan open-air theatre’ and music on piano and harp by candlelight.

For some decades, the 12,000-volume castle library held a collection of original documents relating to the Wild Geese, and the tower led to an old chapel with a bell.

Until 1991, Castle Matrix was open for tours and the headquarters of the International Institute of Military History and of the Heraldry Society of Ireland.

Today, however, the castle looks forlorn once again, in a sad and lonely state, hidden behind a cluster of trees at the end of an unmarked track.

The unmarked drive leading to Castle Matrix (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 6:
Longford 4: Jesus
meets his mother Mary

Station 4 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus meets his mother Mary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week on Ash Wednesday and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on a portion of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, impelling the foreground figures into greater relief. The 24-carat gold leaf haloes establish not only the central image of Christ but also those of his mother and the disciples.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 4: Jesus meets his mother Mary

In this station, Christ meets his Mother Mary. He seems to have dropped his Cross as he rushes towards her and she rushes towards him. She stretches out both hands as if she is about to embrace him; he has one arm around her neck, his right hand clutching her left shoulder. But his other arm is being pulled back by the arm of another otherwise unseen figure.

Behind Mary, the silver blade of a drawn sword looms threateningly, a reminder of the words once spoken to her in the Temple 40 days after Christ’s birth. The 40 days of the Christmas season lead us to the 40 days of Lent, the Incarnation and the Presentation lead us to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Hope springs eternal, as we are reminded by the freshly-shooting green spring branches over each figure.

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel quotes those words of Simeon to the Virgin Mary at the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, words from the Canticle Nunc Dimittis, ‘And You Yourself a Sword Shall Pierce’.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2: 34-35).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs,
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Meditation:

Mother and child. Madonna.
Joseph has died. There is no angelic choir.
No shepherds. No wise men.
Gone are the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Mary sees her battered son through a veil of tears.

Prayers:

Son of God, son of Mary, the crowd heaps scorn and turns the blade that pierces your mother’s own soul. Grant us the grace to see those in needless suffering and to reach out to them showing the love you wanted to show to your mother Mary as you stumbled toward Calvary. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, you feel so alone with all those people yelling and screaming at you. You do not like the words they are saying about you, and you look for a friendly face in the crowd. You see your mother. She cannot make the hurting stop, but it helps to see that she is on your side, that she is suffering with you. She does understand and care.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

Sunday, 18 February 2018

‘I can resist everything
except temptation’

‘And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness’ (Mark 1: 12) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 18 February 2018,

The First Sunday in Lent,

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick

11.15 a.m., Choral Eucharist

Readings:
Genesis 9: 8-17; Psalm 25: 1-9; I Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 9-15.

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

Oscar Wilde once said, ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’

Or rather, he put these words in the mouth of Lord Darlington in Lady Windermere’s Fan (Act I, 1892). And, if you are familiar with the play, Lord Darlington then not only shows how not to resist temptation, but also leads the once-puritanical Lady Windermere into temptation too.

A well-known canon of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin – I better clarify quickly that this is not the present Dean of this Cathedral – a well-known canon of Saint Patrick’s was asked one year what he was giving up for Lent.

‘I am giving up the slice of lemon in my gin and tonic,’ he replied.

However, to dispel any misapprehensions, he added hastily: ‘But I shall remain bitter and twisted.’

Temptation is so difficult to resist.

How many of us started Lent with good intentions last Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday?

How many of us, by the weekend, have already found an excuse to allow that resolve to weaken, had that drink, stepped out for that smoke, had an extra chocolate or dipped into biscuits?

How many of us found a good excuse in not wanting to look too pious or sanctimonious this Lent, or in the words of Canon Bradley, to appear ‘bitter and twisted’?

I was hoping to get a little more daily exercise in Lent, to get out for a few extra kilometres each day, which is good for my body, but also good for my mind and my soul.

But I realise the temptation of the easy excuse, particularly with the persistent daily rain that I realise since I arrived here a year ago is part of the microclimate of West Limerick.

But I give in to myself too easily. It is not as though the rain is going to last for the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent, is it?

It’s not as if each day is going to bring the 40 days of flooding that Noah experienced (see Genesis 7: 17), or that the waters are going to remain on the footpaths and potholes for the 40 days that Noah waited before opening the windows of the ark (see Genesis 8: 6).

But the repetition of 40 days throughout the story of the Flood is significant. I can think too of the 40 years the freed slaves spent wandering in the wilderness, the 40 days of testing Moses endured when the covenant was renewed after the incident involving the golden calf (Exodus 34: 28), the 40 days Elijah spent on Mount Sinai (see I Kings 19: 8), and the 40 days Christ spent in the wilderness.

Each period of 40 days (or 40 years) is followed by new promise, now hope, new relationship, loving relationship, what we call covenantal relationship, with God.

‘Noah and the Dove’ by Simon Manby (2006) … a sculpture in the gardens of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After the 40 days of waiting for the floods to recede, Noah sees a rainbow in the sky, a sign of the covenant (Genesis 9: 9) God makes with Noah, his sons, and with ‘every living creature’ (verse 10). The agreement is between God and all humanity (verses 11, 15, 16), with all creatures and with ‘the earth’ (verse 13) itself, and it is an ‘everlasting covenant’ (verse 16).

After 40 days, the children in the wilderness enter a new covenant with God.

After 40 days in wilderness, where – unlike Lady Windermere’s suitor Lord Darlington – he resists temptation, Christ returns to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’ (see Mark 1: 14-15).

That link between 40 days of waiting and preparing, hoping and anticipating, explains how the Early Church developed the season of Lent as the season of preparation for Baptism for new Christians.

In our Epistle reading, Saint Peter tells us Baptism puts us in a condition to be found worthy by God (see I Peter 3: 21).

Lent is not so much a time of fretting about temptation or dispelling any misapprehensions about looking too pious or sanctimonious, as a time of preparing to renew our Baptismal covenant, to renew our love affair with God.

Is your Lent going to be an opportunity to be part of the new creation in Christ?

Is your Lent going to be a time to take account of your own hidden temptations?

Is your Lent going to be a time to explore your own wilderness places and to be aware of them?

Is your Lent going to be a time of preparation for the acceptance of the Kingdom of God?

Perhaps the best-known line in Lady Windermere’s Fan is words spoken by Lord Darlington that sum up the central theme of the play: ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’

They are words by Oscar Wilde that describe how Victorians saw an unbridgeable chasm between good and bad, between love and hopelessness, between real love and base desire, between the eternal and the frailty of real life.

But these are false contrasts. Instead I prefer how Martin Luther King once said: ‘Only in the darkness can you see the stars.’

Spiritually, we are not in the gutter looking up at the stars. Our Baptism means we do not remain in the wilderness or in the darkness. Lent, as it returns year by year, offers us a perennial opportunity to renew our covenantal relationship with God, the promises of our Baptism, to accept the love of God that Christ offers us.

How?

There is a posting that is popular in social media for the past week that asks: ‘Do You Want to Fast This Lent?’

And it then offers these bite-size Lenten resolutions, said to be ‘in the words of Pope Francis’:

Fast from hurting words ... and say kind words.

Fast from sadness ... and be filled with gratitude.

Fast from anger ... and be filled with patience.

Fast from pessimism ... and be filled with hope.

Fast from worries ... and have trust in God.

Fast from complaints ... and contemplate simplicity.

Fast from pressures ... and be prayerful.

Fast from bitterness ... and fill your hearts with joy.

Fast from selfishness ... and be compassionate to others.

Fast from grudges ...and be reconciled.

Fast from words ... and be silent so you can listen.

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 Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the First Sunday in Lent, 18 February 2018.

He was in the wilderness for forty days (Mark 1: 13) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Penitential Kyries:

In the wilderness we find your grace:
you love us with an everlasting love.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

There is none but you to uphold our cause;
our sin cries out and our guilt is great.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Restore us and we shall know your joy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5: 1, 2)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who was in every way tempted as we are yet did not sin;
by whose grace we are able to overcome all our temptations:

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
you renew us with the living bread from heaven.
Nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
strengthen our love,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness,
to deny yourselves,
and to take up your cross and follow him:

The fifth century mosaic of the Baptism of Christ in the Neonian Baptistry in Ravenna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Hymns:

207, Forty days and forty nights
204, When Jesus came to Jordan
553, Jesu, lover of my soul
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us

An icon of the Baptism of Christ, worked on a cut of olive wood by Eleftheria Syrianoglou, in an exhibition in the Fortezza in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)