Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The legacy of old
garages and old
names in Rathkeale

O’Grady’s Garage in Rathkeale, Co Limerick … a surviving example of the functional architecture from the last century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I spent the last two working days in Rathkeale, visiting the school, at committee and board meetings and visiting parishioners.

Last night’s sunset, looking west along the River Deel from the bridge that links Main Street and Church Street, seemed so calm and peaceful that it gave no warning of the snows and storms that were about to come today, cancelling my plans to go to Dublin this afternoon and cancelling a conference I was to co-chair in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute on Friday .

Those two days gave me some time to walk through the town and to appreciate more of the domestic and commercial architecture of the town.

Earlier this month, I was quoted in the Guardian for my reminiscences and childhood memories of Lehane’s Garage in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, in a feature on ‘Ireland’s vanishing 'quirky’ shopfronts – in pictures.’ So, it was difficult not to be reminded of that garage once again as I stood outside O’Grady’s former garage in Thomas Street, Rathkeale.

This is an attached, three-bay two-storey garage, built around 1940. It has a stepped concrete parapet with raised lettering in relief on the front (west elevation). There is a rendered wall at the front, square-headed openings with fixed timber windows, square-headed openings on the ground floor with timber battened double-doors, and one with an over-light. The building also has a corrugated-iron barrel roof.

This building, like the former cinema on the Main Street, are surviving examples of the functional architecture that was prevalent in Irish towns in the last century. The stepped gable, with its lettering and horizontal emphasis, are all characteristic features of the architecture of this era.

Welcome to Wolfe’s Burgess in Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Meanwhile, some of the placenames in this part of west Limerick continue to intrigue me. The east end of the bridge on the River Deel and the west end of the Main Street are in a townland with the name of English Tenements, while there are two townlands in Rathkeale named Wolfe’s Burgess or Wolfeburgess: Wolfeburgess West and Wolfeburgess East.

There is a reference to Wolfeburgess during the Elizabethan plantation, when the land belonging to Sir Patrick Woulfe who died in a rebellion.

After the military and political defeat of Desmond power in this part of Munster, Henry Billingsley was granted much of the land in the Rathkeale area. But in 1588, Edmund Wolfe of Ballywilliam claimed these lands as his ancient property, including ‘ten gardens and ten tenements in Rachkelly,’ perhaps including parts of Wolfe’s Burgess. Shane Mac Patrick Voulfe of Co Limerick, who was pardoned in 1590, was pardoned again ten years later as ‘John Woolf of Ballywilliam, Gentleman.’

Patrick Woolf held 50 acres from the Earl of Cork at Moneregan near Rathkeale in 1630. The family probably continued to live in the area into the 18th century, for Francis Woulfe of Askeaton, a merchant, died in 1730. The family is still remembered in the names of the two townlands known as Wolfeburgess.

Sunset in the English Tenements … the River Deel in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 15:
Longford 13: Jesus is
taken down from the cross

Station 13 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus is taken down from 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 earlier this month 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 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross

Sometimes this Station is described as ‘The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Arms of his Mother.’

In the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke say Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, took the body, and wrapped it a clean linen cloth (Matthew 27: 28; Mark 15: 43, 46; Luke 23: 50-53); Saint John’s Gospel adds that Nicodemus helped Joseph with the preparation of the body for burial.

None of the Gospels says that the Virgin Mary held the body of her son when he was taken down from the Cross and before he was buried, but this has become a popular image in Passion scenes, from Michelangelo’s Pieta to the statues that dominate Good Friday processions in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

In Station XIII in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, one arm of the dead Christ has been released; a solider – for he is without a beard and without a halo – uses plyers to remove the nail of the second arm; the two feet are still nailed to the cross.

The Virgin Mary caresses his freed arm with her arms, her cheek rests against his arm. A bearded man holds the limp body. He is without a halo, yet this is Joseph of Arimathea.

On each arm of the Cross are the letters Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title of Christ at the beginning and the end of the Book of Revelation:

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1: 8).

Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’ (Revelation 21: 6).

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’ (Revelation 22: 12).

These are words of Christ that appear in the Book of Revelation, not in the Gospels. At the end of the Bible, Christ tells us he is the beginning and the end. TS Eliot opens his poem ‘East Coker,’ the second of his Four Quartets: ‘In my beginning is my end.’ And he concludes it with the words: ‘In my end is my beginning.’

A spear points at the arm marked Alpha, a ladder is propped against the arm marked Omega. The ladder is propped against the Cross to take down Christ’s body, the spear belongs to one of the soldiers. In Saint John’s Gospel, when the soldiers are checking whether those who have been crucified have died, they break their legs, but when they come to Jesus one of them instead ‘pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out’ (John 19: 32-34).

The filled cup, first seen in Station IX, is seen again here in Station XIII, and recalls either the blood and water that pour from Christ’s pierced side or the cup at both the Last Supper and at Christ’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

A mouse and a mousetrap at the foot of the cross are reminders of a tradition that as a carpenter Saint Joseph made mousetraps and a less benign legend in which the devil appears in disguise as a mouse.

The inscription in terracotta lettering below this panel reads: ‘Indeed This Man Was the Son of God.’ In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, when Christ breathes his last, ‘the centurion and those with him’ are terrified and say: ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ (Matthew 27: 54). In Saint Mark and Saint Luke, the centurion alone says ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ (Mark 15: 39). In Saint Luke’s Gospel, the centurion declares: ‘Certainly this man was innocent’ (Luke 23: 47).

The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Arms of his Mother’ … a float in the Good Friday procession in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

Meditation:

Mourning mother. Broken child.
A sword of grief pierces her soul.
Women surround her, but none can comfort her.
Her name is bitterness.

Prayers:

Crucified Saviour, you are resurrection and life and in your death and resurrection we who mourn find the peace and comfort your own mother lacked as your body came down from the cross. Help us to bring the hope of the resurrection to all who mourn. 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, how brutally you were put to death. How gently your are taken from the cross. Your suffering and pain are ended, and you are put in the lap of your mother. The dirt and blood are wiped away. You are treated with love.

Jesus, let me take a few moments now to consider your love for me. Help me thank you for your willingness to go to your death for me. Help me express my love for you!

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: Station 14: Jesus is placed in the tomb.

Yesterday’s reflection

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

In the ruins of ‘secluded’ and
solitary Lislaughtin Abbey

Evening lights at Lislaughtin Friary near Ballylongford, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

After a recent weekend in Ballybunion, two of us stopped on our way back to Askeaton at Ballylongford to visit Lislaughtin Abbey, which has been described as ‘one of the most elegant Hiberno-Gothic buildings on the Shannon Estuary.’

Although it is known locally as Lislaughtin Abbey, it was founded as a Franciscan friary. It is 1.3 km north of Ballylongford, on the east bank of the River Ballyline and the Ballylongford Creek and to the south of the Shannon Estuary.

The friary was founded for the Order of Friars Minor or Observant Franciscan Friars in 1470 by John O’Connor, Lord of Kerry, John O’Connor endowed the friary with altar vessels and other furnishings.

The foundation, in the Diocese of Ardfert, was later approved by Pope Sixtus IV in 1477, who instructed the Prior of Ballinskellings, the Archdeacon of Aghadoe and the Dean of Ardfert to grant the license if the site was suitable.

The friary was named after Saint Lachtin, who is said to have brought Christianity to the area, and who died in 622.

No written life of Saint Lachtain or Lactean has survived. However, a short biographical note was written about him by the Anglican hymn-writer, the Revd Sabine Baring-Gould. And he features in the lives of a number of other Irish saints, where some miracles are ascribed to him.

This saint, also called Lactenus, Lactinius and Lactanus, came from a distinguished family in Muskerry, Co Cork. According to legend, while Saint Molua lived as a disciple of Saint Comgall of Bangor, an angel appeared to him and predicted the birth of Lactinus – after an interval of 15 years – who was to be his future friend and companion. Afterwards, it was related, that Saint Molua never smiled until he heard of the infant’s birth.

Saint Lachtain was born some time in the sixth century, and his mother is called Senecha. The accounts of his birth are drawn from accounts of the births of Jacob, Jeremiah and Saint John the Baptist, who were blessed before they were born. It is said that as an infant Lactinus was miraculously preserved from suffering and also healed his mother from a dangerous tumour and saved neighbours’ cattle from a plague.

When he was 14, he moved to Saint Comgall’s new abbey in Bangor, where Saint Molua was his teacher. He was sent out to found religious houses, and these included Achadh Úr or Freshford, Co Kilkenny, where he gave his name to Saint Lachtain’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church.

His miracles are said to have included raising the dead to life. He ruled over or founded many monasteries, and he is called bishop in some martyrologies, including the Carthusian Martyrology, and the martyrologies of Ferrarius, of Canisius, and of Joannes Kerkested, although he is always called ‘Lactinus of Achadh-ur.’

He died on 19 March 622, according to the Annals and the martyrologies. He is commemorated by Saint Cuimin of Connor in these lines:

Lachtain, the champion, loved
Humility, perfect and pure.
He stands, throughout all time.
In defence of the men of Munster.


The Great East Window in Lislaughtin Friary near Ballylongford, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Cornelius O’Connor and his wife, Avelina FitzGerald, donated a processional cross to Lislaughtin Friary in 1479. The silver gilt cross bears the figure of Christ and the symbols of the Evangelist set at the ends of the cross arms. The figures on the collar below the crucifixion represent Franciscan friars or Saint Francis.

When John O’Connor resigned as Lord of Kerry in favour of his son he retired to the friary as member of the Franciscan Third Order, and he was buried at the friary in 1485.

The friary was so important in the Irish mediaeval church that a Franciscan provincial chapter was held in Lislaughtin in 1507.

Thomas FitzGerald, heir of the Knight of Glin, was buried there in 1567 after his execution.

During the siege of nearby Carrigafoyle Castle in 1580, the abbey was twice raided by Elizabethan forces. Three friars, Daniel Hanrahan, Maurice Scanlan and Philip O’Shea, were unable to make their escape and were beaten to death in front of the high altar. The friary was sacked and the buildings were destroyed.

The cross donated by Cornelius O’Connor and Avelina Fitzgerald was possibly hidden for safekeeping at this time, and the friary was then dissolved.

Lislaughtin Friary was ‘solitary and surrounded by woods’ by the early 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In 1617-1618, a Franciscan friar, Donatus Mooney, describes the friary as being ‘solitary and surrounded by woods’ which suggests it was then unoccupied. The friary was granted to James Scolls and then to Sir Edward Denny.

The church and graveyard remained in use by local people, and some friars returned in 1629. But it was destroyed once again by Cromwellian troops in 1652.

A sketch in 1792 shows a typical slender Franciscan tower was still standing that year, but the tower collapsed some years later. The friars continued to maintain a presence in the area, and the Franciscans appointed guardians until 1860, perhaps in the hope of recovering their friary.

Lislaughtin retains some fine examples of late mediaeval stonework in the great east window, the sedilia, piscina, choir windows, the great window in the south transept, the west window and the tombs of the O’Connor and FitzGerald families.

The abbey church is a long building divided into choir and nave with triple sedilia. The collapsed square tower was over the choir arch. The 30 windows are pointed and of cut limestone. A two-storey building contained refectory and dormitory.

Inside the ruins of ‘solitary’ Lislaughtin Friary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The friary remains today include the church with a south transept, the cloister and domestic buildings located to the north. One of the two carved tomb niches on the north side of the nave was possibly made for the burial of John O’Connor, the friary’s founder. In the chancel on the south side there are sedilia or seats for the clergy.

The friary had a library and a scriptorium on the top storey which was accessed from the friars’ dormitory. The dormitory cubicles have a recess under each window, possibly a storage area for friars’ personal items, such as books or writing utensils. The friary’s garderobe or latrine block is a two-storey structure to the north-east.

The silver processional cross commissioned for Lislaughtin Friary in 1479

The silver processional cross commissioned for the friary in 1479 was made by William Cornel of Dublin. It lay hidden for over two and a half centuries until it was unearthed in March 1871 by John Jeffcott, a farmer who was ploughing some reclaimed bogland at Ballymacasey, south of Lislaughtin.

Although some pieces of the cross were missing and it had suffered minor damage, the cross is still largely intact and in good condition. It The cross remained in the Jeffcott family home in Ballylongford for 18 until it was acquired by the Royal Irish Academy for preservation and public display.

The cross is 67 cm tall and is made from silver gilt. It was made into a complete piece from four separate components: the cross itself, with the horizontal bar attached by sockets and rivets; a collar below; a knop or rounded knob; and a hollow socket for attaching a handle.

A figure of Christ, which was cast separately, adorns the centre of the cross.

The cross is covered with a floreated outline that is typical of the late Gothic period and gives it a particularly ornate look.

The back of the cross is plain. The inscription is engraved in three lines on each arm of the cross and the text is interlaced with flowers and animals.

At the end of each arm and in the centre are quatrefoils, each with the symbol of one of the four evangelists: an eagle for Saint John, a lion for Saint Mark and calf for Saint Luke. The fourth quatrefoil in missing the human figure, representing Saint Matthew.

The stylised figure of Christ has rivulets of blood, elongated arms, a crown of thorns and a moulded loincloth. The figure is attached to the cross with three small nails, one in each hand and one at the feet. Christ’s eyes are closed and his protruding ribs and the wound in his side are clearly visible.

Beneath the cross, an eight-sided flared plinth or collar has a series of cast monks or friars, each holding a cross in his left hand while the right hand is raised in blessing. This collar is set on a twisted knop with another eight-sided decoration of rosettes and leaves. This knop sits on of a tapering circular socket with a decoration of serrated ribs, where a metal shaft would have been attached to carry the cross in processions.

The Lislaughtin cross is similar in style to the 40 or so processional crosses found in Britain and Ireland dating from the same period. They include the Bosworth Crucifix, which once belonged to the Victorian book collector and antiquarian James Comerford (1807-1881), and a 15th century processional cross in the Hunt Museum in Limerick.

James Comerford’s son, James W Comerford, exhibited and presented the Bosworth Crucifix to the Society of Antiquaries ‘in the name of his late father, James Comerford, Esq., FSA.’ The processional cross in the Hunt Museum was bought at auction in Christies in 1961 by John Hunt for £130. The Lislaughtin Cross is now in the National Museum in Kildare Street, Dublin.

An ogee-hooded late mediaeval tomb in Lislaughtin Friary near Ballylongford, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 14:
Longford 12: Jesus
dies on the cross

Station 12 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus dies on 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 earlier this month 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 12: Jesus dies on the cross

In Station XII in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, the Crucified Christ dies between the two thieves on either side. On the arms of the Cross is the acronym INRI, an abbreviation of the Latin version of the words written by Pilate, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.’

Behind the scene are the words ‘Remember Me,’ recalling the cry of the Penitent Thief reported only in Saint Luke’s Gospel: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23: 42).

At the foot of the cross stand the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Beloved Disciple, who holds in his hands a book – perhaps the Fourth Gospel, perhaps the Bible – inscribed with the Greek initials ‘IC XC,’ the Greek initials for Jesus Christ, Ἰησοῦς (ὁ) Χριστός.

Beneath this panel, the inscription in terracotta capital lettering reads: ‘Is it nothing to you all you who pass by.’ This is a quotation from the Book of Lamentations: ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger’ (Lamentations 1: 12; see Jeremiah 18: 16).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Meditation:

Despised. Rejected.
Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani?
My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
From top to bottom the veil in the Temple is torn in two.

Prayers:

Lamb that was slain, as you cried out to your Father from the cross we learned how deep was your suffering, how complete was your sense of abandonment. Be present with us when others betray us or forsake us that we may find ourselves in your eyes and not theirs. 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.

As Jesus hung on the cross, he forgave the soldiers who had crucified him, and prayed for his mother and friends. Jesus wanted all of us to be able to live forever with God, so he gave all he had for us.

Jesus, let me take a few moments now to consider your love for me. Help me thank you for your willingness to go to your death for me. Help me express my love for you!

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

Monday, 26 February 2018

A reminder of sunsets
in the Mediterranean in
an old Kerry church ruin

Sunset seen through the west wall of Kilconly Church in Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Two of us went for a brisk walk on the two beaches in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, after lunch on Sunday afternoon [25 February 2018] in Daroka, where we had a table upstairs looking out at the ruins of Ballybunion Castle and the cliffs on the Atlantic coast.

Although snow is threatening later this week, it still felt like early spring in the afternoon, with a slow setting sun that was glistening on the calm waves and the sand.

Late afternoon sunshine on the beach at Ballybunion on Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The sun was still setting on our way back to Askeaton, when we stopped to look at the church ruins and graveyard in Kilconly, halfway between Ballybunion and Tarbert, and close to Beal Beach.

The church ruins and churchyard nestle in a small field off the Wild Atlantic Way, with a babbling brook running through the sheltered creek as it makes its way to the Shannon estuary and the sea.

The name of Kilconly is linked to Saint Conla, who is said to have built the earliest church at this place. The ruins are said to date from the 12th to 15th century, but it is difficult to know when the church fell into disuse.

The parish is in the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and until the mid-19th century the Treasurers of Ardfert were also Rectors and Vicars of Kilconly. They included Cecil Pery, 1st Lord Glentworth, who was Treasurer (1758-1780) and later became Bishop of Killala and then Bishop of Limerick.

The church ruins at Kilconly (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

However, the parish was too small to afford a resident rector or curate, and pastoral care in the parish was normally in provided by the curate of Aghavallin in Ballylongford, who acted as the curate of Kilconly. The tithes amount to £83.1.5¾ and there are two glebes, amounting to about four acres.

The appointment of a treasurer of Ardfert ceased in 1845. But the church may have fallen into disuse long before that, perhaps even before the Reformation. Today, Kilconly – like neighbouring Ballybunion – is part of the larger Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Paerishes.

Inside the ruins of the church, I caught a glimpse of the sun in the western sky through the west wall. All was silent around me as the sun stayed in place, balancing like a balloon in the sky.

Near the shore are the ruins of the ancient castles of Beale and Lick. Beale Castle belonged to FitzMaurice family, Barons of Kerry and later Earls of Kerry. The fortifications of the castle were demolished around 1600 by Patrick FitzMaurice (1551-1600), the 17th Lord Kerry. That year, Maurice Stack, an officer in Queen Elizabeth’s army, was invited to the castle by Lady Kerry and murdered by her attendants.

In 1633, Beale Castle was named as Beau-lieu in the Pacata Hibernia. The Civil Survey (1654-1658) refers to ‘an old stump of a castle called Licke.’

Litter House, once the home of the Wren family, originally belonged to the Blennerhassett family and passed by marriage to the Wren family.

A seastack near the ruins of Lick Castle is known locally as the ‘Devil’s Castle’ or Caislean an Deamhain.

Kilocnly also has interesting links with Saint John’s Church in Ballybunion, which was built with funds donated by Mrs Mary Young in memory of her husband, John Young. Mary Young was born Mary O’Malley in Kilconly and met her husband John Young, a tea planter, while she was working in Kilkee, Co Clare.

When John Young died, Mary Young inherited his considerable wealth. She used much of her wealth to finance building the convent in Ballybunion in 1887, Ballybunion House, and Saint John’s Church, which cost £8,500.

From Kilconly, we drove on to Beale Beach, with in the west constantly behind us.

As we made our way down to Beale Beach, we caught a last glimpse of the setting sun, as it balanced in the sky, like a Mediterranean sunset. Perhaps it was a promise of summer sunshine in Greece later year; perhaps it was a warning of the coming snow and freezing temperatures later this week.

A Mediterranean-like sunset near Beal Beach on Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 13:
Longford 11: Jesus is
nailed to the cross

Station 11 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus is nailed to 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 earlier this month 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 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross

In this station by Ken Thompson in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, four figures are engaged in the crucifying Christ: one for each arm and one for each leg. Terracotta lettering on the arms of the Cross proclaims: ‘Lamb of God.’ The inscription in terracotta capital letters at the bottom of this Station reads: ‘Him Who Takes Away the Sin of the World.’

A similar idea is found in the Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of the Church of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London, where the Cross is placed between the words: ‘Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the Sins of the World.’

At the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, Saint John the Baptist proclaims the arrival of Christ with the proclamation: ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1: 29). In the closing narrative of this Gospel, when Christ is before Pilate on trial, the people cry out: ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ (John 19: 15).

Now that Christ has been taken away, he is being crucified, and is to take away the sin of the world.

The Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Holy Mother, pierce me through!
In my heart, each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Meditation:

Cold steel. Warm flesh
Nails rip through tendon and muscle.
Blood soaks into splintered wood.
Jesus responds:
‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’

Prayers:

Merciful Redeemer, you declared your forgiveness from the cross, showing love to those who killed you and to the thief dying alongside you. Help us to know and count the cost of our forgiveness, bought at so great a price. 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.

You are stretched out on the cross you have carried so far. The soldiers take big nails and drive them into your hands and feet. You feel abandoned by the people you loved so much. People seem to have gone mad. You have done nothing but good, yet they drive nails through your hands and feet.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

Sunday, 25 February 2018

‘Let them deny themselves and
take up their cross and follow me’

‘Let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Mark 8: 34) … the Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 25 February 2018,

The Second Sunday in Lent,


11.30 a.m., The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Readings: Genesis 17: 1-7 and 15-16; Psalm 22: 23-31; Romans 4: 13-25; Mark 8: 31-38.

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

Lent in Ireland has traditionally been a time for making resolutions – resolutions that are often like New Year’s resolutions. We start out well, giving up drinks, or sweets, or smoking or chocolate – at least for the first week or two.

But now that we are into the second week of Lent, I imagine Lenten resolutions are much forgotten already, just like New Year’s resolutions.

How many of us can remember what your New Year’s resolution was this year?

And if we can remember it, have we stuck to it?

How many of us are continuing on the Lenten journey?

We are into the second week of Lent … are our Lenten resolutions forgotten already? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In our Lent journey in this parish, a small group is meeting now and again to look at the Lenten study course produced by the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This study course, ‘All Things Are Possible,’ explores how faith in God can change the world.

On Wednesday night, the course asked us to consider the question, ‘What does it mean to fulfil our potential?’

And to help discuss that question, we were given three Gospel stories about Saint Peter, and how he wavered and faltered, fell and got back up again, and how it took him a long time to reach his potential.

The first story on Wednesday was Saint Matthew’s version (Matthew 16: 13-19) of the run-in to our Gospel reading this morning (Mark 8: 31-38). On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Peter tells Jesus that he believes he is the Messiah (Mark 8: 29-30). Peter has that rock-like faith on which the Church is going to be built (see Matthew 16: 18-19).

But Jesus then tells his disciples that it is not all going to be a bed of roses, indeed it is going to be more like a crown of thorns. He tells them that on the journey he is going to suffer, be derided, and face his own execution.

Saint Peter is upset. This is not what he expected. This is not what anyone of the day expected of the Messiah.

He takes Jesus aside, and he rebukes him.

But he has got it wrong. Christ in turn rebukes Peter and reminds those present that if they want to be his followers they must take up their cross and follow him.

Our second story that evening, and one that was so appropriate as we make our way through Lent to stories of Holy Week and Good Friday, was the story (John 18: 25-27) during the trial of Jesus, where Peter denies he is a follower of Christ, not just once, or even twice, but denies Christ three times before the cock crows.

This is the same Simon Peter who has a faith that is going to be so rock solid that the church could stand on it. This is the same Peter who drew his sword in the garden in a futile attempt to stop the arrest of Christ in the garden (John 18: 10-11). Yet, when push comes to shove, Peter denies Christ, and denies him three times in the course of just one night.

Our third story the other night, and one that shows how Saint Peter find his potential, or rather Christ sees his potential, is an Easter story, a story of hope (John 21: 15-17).

The Risen Christ meets the disciples on the shore early in the morning. After breakfast, Christ asks Peter: ‘Do you love me?’ Peter answers, ‘Yes Lord; you know that I love you.’ Christ tells him: ‘Feed my lambs’ (verse 15).

A second time, Christ asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter answers, ‘Yes Lord; you know that I love you.’ Christ tells him: ‘Tend my sheep’ (verse 16).

A third time, Christ asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter feels hurt, and he sounds exasperated and exhausted as he answers a third time, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ This time Christ tells him: ‘Feed my sheep’ (verse 17).

Christ’s three questions to Peter serve as a way of reversing the three denials the previous week (see John 18: 15-17; 25-27). Now he is given a triple charge: to feed the lambs of the Good Shepherd; to tend his sheep; and to tend feed his sheep.

‘Ibrahim/Abraham/Avraham’ by Stephen Raw in the ‘Holy Writ’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral in 2014, bringing together the traditions of the Abrahamic faiths (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Despite this, Saint Peter still does not manage to get it quite right all the time. He argues with Saint Paul at Antioch, and Paul rebukes Peter for seemingly trying to insist that Gentiles must become Jews if they are to convert to Christianity (Galatian 2: 11-13). This portrayal of Peter in the Letter to the Galatians is in sharp contrast to Saint Paul’s positive image of Abraham in this morning’s Epistle reading (Romans 4: 13-25), when Saint Paul describes Abraham to the Church in Rome as an archetype of faithfulness.

But even when he gets it wrong in Antioch, Peter goes on to get it right at the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15: 7-20).

Peter goes on to refer to Paul as ‘our beloved brother’ and his letters as ‘scripture’ even when they may be difficult to understand (see II Peter 3: 16-17). A later Church tradition says Peter and Paul taught together in Rome, founded Christianity in the city, and suffered martyrdom at the same time, so that an icon of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, standing side-by-side, is a popular icon of Church unity and ecumenism in the Orthodox Church.

In our journey in Lent, we may falter when it comes to Lenten resolutions and Lenten resolve.

And when I fail, when I go back to my old habits, how often I am in danger of judging myself, feeling that I am not quite as close to perfection as I thought I might be at this time of the year.

We are constantly reminded in advertising and through the media of the need to be perfect. If only I drove this car, cooked in that well-stocked kitchen, or drank that tempting new wine or beer, then I would be closer to others seeing me like a perfect Greek god.

Yet the lectionary readings this morning are a call to put aside the struggle to conform to outside demands and pressures, and instead to journey in faith with God, like Abraham and Sarah in our Old Testament reading and in our Epistle reading, like Saint Peter not just in our Gospel reading, but in the full, robust portrait of Peter presented in the New Testament.

Like the people who are listening to Christ in this morning’s reading, we are called to take up our cross and follow Christ. Along the way, we may fall and stumble, we may wonder where we are going and why. But the Easter message is always a reminder that the journey in faith leads to is one of hope and love.

If Saint Peter knew what was ahead of him, he might have been even stronger in rebuking Christ in this Gospel reading. But the triumph comes not in getting what we want, not in engineering things so that God gives us what we desire and wish for, so that we get a Jesus who does the things we want him to do. The triumph comes in a few weeks’ time, at Easter, in the Resurrection.

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

This sermon was prepared for the Second Sunday in Lent, 25 February 2018

The Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul holding the church in unity … an early 18th century icon in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Liturgical colour: Violet.

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,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
Grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things
as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

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:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Creator of heaven and earth,
we thank you for these holy mysteries
given us by our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which we receive your grace
and are assured of your love,
which is through him now and for ever.

Blessing:

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

Hymns:

418, Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face
599, ‘Take up thy cross’, the Saviour said
666, Be still my soul.

Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome … ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘If any want to become my
followers, let them take up
their cross and follow me’

Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome … ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 25 February 2018,

The Second Sunday in Lent,


9.30 a.m., Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick.

Readings: Genesis 17: 1-7 and 15-16; Psalm 22: 23-31; Romans 4: 13-25; Mark 8: 31-38.

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

Lent in Ireland has traditionally been a time for making resolutions – resolutions that are often like New Year’s resolutions. We start out well, giving up drinks, or sweets, or smoking or chocolate – at least for the first week or two.

But now that we are into the second week of Lent, I imagine Lenten resolutions are much forgotten already, just like New Year’s resolutions.

How many of us can remember what your New Year’s resolution was this year?

And if we can remember it, have we stuck to it?

How many of us are continuing on the Lenten journey?

We are into the second week of Lent … are our Lenten resolutions forgotten already? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In our Lent journey in this parish, a small group is meeting now and again to look at the Lenten study course produced by the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This study course, ‘All Things Are Possible,’ explores how faith in God can change the world.

On Wednesday night, the course asked us to consider the question, ‘What does it mean to fulfil our potential?’

And to help discuss that question, we were given three Gospel stories about Saint Peter, and how he wavered and faltered, fell and got back up again, and how it took him a long time to reach his potential.

The first story on Wednesday was Saint Matthew’s version (Matthew 16: 13-19) of the run-in to our Gospel reading this morning (Mark 8: 31-38). On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Peter tells Jesus that he believes he is the Messiah (Mark 8: 29-30). Peter has that rock-like faith on which the Church is going to be built (see Matthew 16: 18-19).

But Jesus then tells his disciples that it is not all going to be a bed of roses, indeed it is going to be more like a crown of thorns. He tells them that on the journey he is going to suffer, be derided, and face his own execution.

Saint Peter is upset. This is not what he expected. This is not what anyone of the day expected of the Messiah.

He takes Jesus aside, and he rebukes him.

But he has got it wrong. Christ in turn rebukes Peter and reminds those present that if they want to be his followers they must take up their cross and follow him.

Our second story that evening, and one that was so appropriate as we make our way through Lent to stories of Holy Week and Good Friday, was the story (John 18: 25-27) during the trial of Jesus, where Peter denies he is a follower of Christ, not just once, or even twice, but denies Christ three times before the cock crows.

This is the same Simon Peter who has a faith that is going to be so rock solid that the church could stand on it. This is the same Peter who drew his sword in the garden in a futile attempt to stop the arrest of Christ in the garden (John 18: 10-11). Yet, when push comes to shove, Peter denies Christ, and denies him three times in the course of just one night.

Our third story the other night, and one that shows how Saint Peter find his potential, or rather Christ sees his potential, is an Easter story, a story of hope (John 21: 15-17).

The Risen Christ meets the disciples on the shore early in the morning. After breakfast, Christ asks Peter: ‘Do you love me?’ Peter answers, ‘Yes Lord; you know that I love you.’ Christ tells him: ‘Feed my lambs’ (verse 15).

A second time, Christ asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter answers, ‘Yes Lord; you know that I love you.’ Christ tells him: ‘Tend my sheep’ (verse 16).

A third time, Christ asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter feels hurt, and he sounds exasperated and exhausted as he answers a third time, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ This time Christ tells him: ‘Feed my sheep’ (verse 17).

Christ’s three questions to Peter serve as a way of reversing the three denials the previous week (see John 18: 15-17; 25-27). Now he is given a triple charge: to feed the lambs of the Good Shepherd; to tend his sheep; and to tend feed his sheep.

‘Ibrahim/Abraham/Avraham’ by Stephen Raw in the ‘Holy Writ’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral in 2014, bringing together the traditions of the Abrahamic faiths (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Despite this, Saint Peter still does not manage to get it quite right all the time. He argues with Saint Paul at Antioch, and Paul rebukes Peter for seemingly trying to insist that Gentiles must become Jews if they are to convert to Christianity (Galatian 2: 11-13). This portrayal of Peter in the Letter to the Galatians is in sharp contrast to Saint Paul’s positive image of Abraham in this morning’s Epistle reading (Romans 4: 13-25), when Saint Paul describes Abraham to the Church in Rome as an archetype of faithfulness.

But even when he gets it wrong in Antioch, Peter goes on to get it right at the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15: 7-20).

Peter goes on to refer to Paul as ‘our beloved brother’ and his letters as ‘scripture’ even when they may be difficult to understand (see II Peter 3: 16-17). A later Church tradition says Peter and Paul taught together in Rome, founded Christianity in the city, and suffered martyrdom at the same time, so that an icon of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, standing side-by-side, is a popular icon of Church unity and ecumenism in the Orthodox Church.

In our journey in Lent, we may falter when it comes to Lenten resolutions and Lenten resolve.

And when I fail, when I go back to my old habits, how often I am in danger of judging myself, feeling that I am not quite as close to perfection as I thought I might be at this time of the year.

We are constantly reminded in advertising and through the media of the need to be perfect. If only I drove this car, cooked in that well-stocked kitchen, or drank that tempting new wine or beer, then I would be closer to others seeing me like a perfect Greek god.

Yet the lectionary readings this morning are a call to put aside the struggle to conform to outside demands and pressures, and instead to journey in faith with God, like Abraham and Sarah in our Old Testament reading and in our Epistle reading, like Saint Peter not just in our Gospel reading, but in the full, robust portrait of Peter presented in the New Testament.

Like the people who are listening to Christ in this morning’s reading, we are called to take up our cross and follow Christ. Along the way, we may fall and stumble, we may wonder where we are going and why. But the Easter message is always a reminder that the journey in faith leads to is one of hope and love.

If Saint Peter knew what was ahead of him, he might have been even stronger in rebuking Christ in this Gospel reading. But the triumph comes not in getting what we want, not in engineering things so that God gives us what we desire and wish for, so that we get a Jesus who does the things we want him to do. The triumph comes in a few weeks’ time, at Easter, in the Resurrection.

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

This sermon was prepared for the Second Sunday in Lent, 25 February 2018

The Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul holding the church in unity … an early 18th century icon in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Liturgical colour: Violet.

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,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
Grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things
as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

Introduction to the Peace:

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

Blessing:

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

Hymns:

418, Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face
599, ‘Take up thy cross’, the Saviour said
666, Be still my soul.

‘Let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Mark 8: 34) … the Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 12:
Longford 10: Jesus is
stripped of his clothes

Station 10 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus is stripped of his clothes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Second Sunday in Lent [25 February 2018]. Later this morning, I am leading Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick at 9.30, and presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

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 earlier this month 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 10: Jesus is stripped of his clothes

This station depicts a scene described in all four Gospels:

And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him (Matthew 27: 35-36).

And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. (Mark 15: 24).

And they cast lots to divide his clothing (Luke 23: 34).

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots’ (John 19: 23-24).

Clothes are often used to indicate a person’s social position, their place in society. This public stripping says that Jesus is being stripped of social standing, his place in society. He has become an outcast, despised by all.

At the foot of the Cross, the soldiers draw lots to divide his few remaining possessions. All four Gospel accounts speak of Christ’s clothes being divided by casing lots, but Saint John alone refers this to a passage in Psalm 22: 18.

Saint John too is alone is saying Christ’s tunic was ‘seamless, woven in one piece from the top’ (John 19:23). This may also refer to the High Priest’s robe, which was ‘woven from a single thread,’ without stitching. The naked Christ is the true High Priest.

Being stripped naked is one more step in the process of ultimate humiliation. Imagine the embarrassment of being so exposed. But remember too how Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, naked and ashamed. Once again, Christ shows that he is just like us.

In this station by Ken Thompson in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, one solider is beating Christ with a sword, while the other is holding up his clothes, as if to check whether the tunic has any value, while turning his face away in disgust.

The two dice on either side indicate they are going to cast lots, but did you notice how they have been cast wrongly? The opposite faces of dice always add up to 7, (1/6, 2/5, 3/4); but this is impossible in both cases in this depiction. The die is cast, but everyone is a loser.

The daffodils that we have seen bursting out in previous stations as a sign of hope have now been replaced by thorns and a thistle. The artist here is drawing once again on the Prophet Hosea: ‘… the sin of Israel shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars’ (Hosea 10: 8).

The inscription in terracotta capital letters at the bottom of this Station reads: ‘He Empties Himself and Became as Men Are.’ This refers to a passage in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, where he says ‘Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2: 6-8)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Meditation:

Despised. Rejected.
Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani?
My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
From top to bottom the veil in the Temple is torn in two.

Prayers:

Lamb that was slain, as you cried out to your Father from the cross we learned how deep was your suffering, how complete was your sense of abandonment. Be present with us when others betray us or forsake us that we may find ourselves in your eyes and not theirs. 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.

The soldiers notice you have something of value. They remove your cloak and throw dice for it. Your wounds are torn open once again. Some of the people in the crowd make fun of you. They tease you and challenge you to perform a miracle for them to see. They are not aware that you will perform the greatest miracle of all!

The Collect of the Day (the Second Sunday in Lent):

Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
Grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things
as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

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 as 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)