Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Finding sure friends
in the storms and on
the journeys of life

‘ … they took him with them in the boat, just as he was’ (Mark 4: 36) … boats in the small harbour at Georgioupoli in Crete last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick,

26 June 2018


Our Gospel reading today (Mark 4: 35-41) was one of the Gospel readings we might have read here on Sunday morning.

It tells a story about a boat journey in a thunder storm. Christ is with the disciples, and they are seasoned fishers and sailors. They would know the real dangers of sudden storms and swells that can blow up on a lake, and they would know the safety of a good boat, as long as it has a good crew.

Christ is asleep in the boat when a great gale rises, the waves beat the side of the boat, and it is soon swamped by the waters in the storm.

At first, it seems Christ is oblivious to the calamity that is unfolding around him and to the fear of the disciples. They have to wake him, and by then they fear they are perishing, they are going to drown.

Christ wakes, rebukes the wind, calm descends on the sea, and Christ challenges those on the boat: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ (verse 40).

Instead of being calmed, though, they are now filled with awe. Do they recognise Christ for who he truly is? They ask one another: ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (verse 31).

Even before the Resurrection, Christ tells his friends not to be afraid, a constant message he has for them after his Resurrection.

Do his friends in the boat begin to ask truly who Christ is because he has calmed the storm, or because he has calmed their fears?

Some of you are setting out the next stage in the journey of life. Hopefully, you have dreams. But you may also have some doubts or fears.

You may face storms and difficulties on that journey in life.

But I hope you will take three ideas with you on the journey in life.

1, You can dream dreams for yourself, for your family, for your friends, for your future. But when the going gets tough, I hope you can keep your trust in Christ, and that you can be confident that he will take care of you and love through all the storms and all the journeys in life.

2, The Disciples represent your friends: the friends you make in school, the friends you will meet and make in school, can be important friends later in life as you travel together on the journey in life.

3, And finally, the boat in this story is often seen as representing the Church. I hope that in the future you will find the Church is a welcoming place, a safe place, and a place you can turn to in the journeys and in the storms of life.

This reflection was prepared for the end-of-school-year service in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on 26 June 2018.

Mark 4: 35-41:

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

A fishing boat with its nets in the harbour in Georgioupoli last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A present of the Victorian
heraldic bookplate used
by James Comerford

James Comerford’s bookplate … a thoughtful gift that arrived in the post recently (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

While I was away in Crete for two weeks this month, a generous gift with sentimental value had arrived in the post.

A Facebook friend, Edmund Moriarity, had been carrying out some research when he recently acquired a 19th century history of Walthamstow in north-east London.

I regularly pass through Tottenham Hales, which is near Walthamstow, when I am taking the Stansted Express from Stansted Airport into London, and it is on the same train line I shall be using next week when I am going to the USPG conference in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

When my Facebook contact opened the book, a book plate fell out with the coat of arms and name of James Comerford. He was intrigued by the bookplate, googled the motto, So Ho Ho Dea Ne, and found my ‘interesting blog article’ on James Comerford.

Through messenger on Facebook, he asked whether I would you like the bookplate.

It was a kind and generous offer.

I have been familiar with this bookplate since childhood, when I was first shown copies of it by two aunts who lived in my grandmother’s house in Terenure, Dublin. But the only other copy I have of this bookplate is in James Comerford’s slim volume, Some Records of the Comerford family collected by a descendant, written at the beginning of the 20th century, privately printed and later bound on 26 November 1902.

The bookplate shows a Victorian version of the quartered Comberford arms used by the Victorian antiquarian and book collector, James Comerford, JP, FSA (1806-1881). His heraldic bookplates, with the motto So Ho Ho Dea Ne, remain collector’s items. The heraldic description is:

Quarterly 1 and 4, Gules, a talbot passant argent; 2 and 3, gules, a cross engrailed or, charged with five rose of the first, barbed and seeded of the second.

Crest: out of a ducal coronet or, a peacock’s head proper.

Motto: So Ho Ho Dea Ne.

The first quarter represents the Comberford family of Comberford, between Lichfield and Tamworth, and the Moat House in Tamworth, Staffordshire. This is an interesting reversal of the arms used by the Wolseley family of Wolseley, outside Rugeley in Staffordshire. The arms may have been adapted by the Comberford family to show a close relationship with both the Wolseley family and the Talbot family, Earls of Shrewsbury.

The second quarter was adopted by the Comberford family after inheriting the estates of the Parles family through marriage, probably with the intention of displaying their loyalty to cause of the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses.

The peacock crest is a variation on a theme found in the arms of the Comberford and Comerford families in Staffordshire and in Co Kilkenny and Co Wexford. The Comberford version is: out of a ducal coronet or, a peacock’s head per pale of the first, charged with six roses counter-charged.

The motto defies translation; indeed, I cannot even ascertain which language it is supposed to be. But has been used by all branches of the family and is usually said to mean: ‘God will do it.’

The bookplate is a thoughtful treasured gift, and provide a link with many aspects of the history of this family.