16 April 2019

‘Lord, where shall I find You?
Your glory fills the world’

A window ledge in the chapel in Dr Miley’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Tuesday in Holy Week

8 p.m., Late Evening Office, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry.

Readings: Psalm 71: 1-14; John 12: 20-36.

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

I said on Sunday (Palm Sunday, 7 April 2019) that during Holy Week this year, instead of preaching each day in Holy Week I hoped to read a poem to help our reflections during this Holy Week.

In our Gospel reading this evening (John 12: 20-36), it is Palm Sunday, and some Greeks are in Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. This year, Passover begins on Friday evening [19 April 2019], coinciding with Good Friday.

These visiting Greeks are trying to find Jesus. They approach Philip, whose Greek name indicates he may understand them, and they say to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

Where do we see Jesus? Where do we find God?

So, my choice of a Lenten poem this evening is ‘Lord, where shall I find You?’, a translation by Rabbi Chaim Stern (1930-2001) from David Frischmann’s Hebrew version of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Gitanjali.

This poem is in a book that I thought for the past two years I had lost in my moves between Dublin and this parish. Service of the Heart, was published in London by the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues in 1967, and the edition I have is dated 1969. I was delighted to rediscover it on a bookshelf in the Rectory in Askeaton a few weeks ago.

This is a rich treasury of spiritual resources, and later I often it often when I was a Reader in Saint Maelruain’s Parish, Tallaght (1994-2000).

One of the poetic prayers I have used on occasions, ‘Lord, where shall I find You?’, this translation by Rabbi Chaim Stern and David Frischmann of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali. It was also included in the Sabbath Prayer Book of the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation.

David Frischmann (1857-1922) was a Jewish writer, poet, essayist and translator. His translations include the works of Tagore, Goethe, Heine, Byron, Oscar Wilde and Anatole France.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a Bengali poet and the first Asian Nobel laureate. Two of his poems have become the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

Dr Chaim Stern is regarded as the foremost liturgist of Reform Judaism. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and studied in Orthodox yeshivot as a child. But the Holocaust caused him to become far more secular than his family.

An outspoken political activist, he travelled to Mississippi to fight for civil rights as a Freedom Rider in 1961. In 1962, he became rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. Although Stern returned to the US in 1965, he was back in London in 1967-1968 back, lecturing at Leo Baeck College and serving as rabbi of Westminster Synagogue. He was a senior rabbi in Miami, Florida, when he died in 2001.

He co-edited two prayer books for the Liberal Jewish Movement in England:On the Doorposts of Your House and Gates of Joy – and edited the new liturgy of the Reform movement.

Searching for books can be a spiritual joy. And the first resource I turned to when I rediscovered Service of the Heart was this Jewish version of Tagore’s poem about our search for God.

Prayer books and prayer shawls on a shelf welcoming visitors to the synagogue in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Lord, where shall I find You?

Lord, where shall I find You?
Your glory fills the world.

Behold, I find You
Where the ploughman breaks through the hard soil,
Where the quarryman explodes stone out of the hillside,
Where the miner digs metals out of the reluctant earth,
Where mean earn their bread by the sweat of their brow,
Among the lonely and the poor, the lowly, the lost,
You are with them in blazing heat and shattering storm.

Behold, I find You
In the mind free to sail by its own star,
In words that spring from the depth of truth,
Where endeavour reaches undespairing for perfection,
Wherever men struggle for justice and freedom,
Where the scientist toils to unravel the secrets of Your world,
Where the poet makes beauty out of words,
Wherever noble deeds are done.

Behold, I find You
In the merry shouts of children at their play,
In the mother’s lullaby, as she rocks her baby in the cradle,
In the sleep falling on his infant eyelids,
And in the smile that dances on his sleeping lips.

Behold, I find You
When dawn comes up golden, bearing gifts,
And in the fall of evening, bringing peace and rest from the
Western sea,
In the joy that flows from heaven with morning light,
In the current of life flowing day and night through all things,
throbbing in my sinews and in the dust of the earth,
In blades of grass beyond count, in every leaf and flower.

Behold, I find You
In the wealth of joys that quickly fade,
In the pulse of life that comes from eternity and dances in
my own blood,
In birth, which renews the generations continually,
And in death, knocking at the doors of life.

O my God,
Give me the strength never to cast off one in need,
Never to bend the knee before a haughty tyrant,
Give me strength to lift my spirit above the trivial,
To bear lightly my joys and my sorrows,
And in love to surrender all my strength to Your will.

For great are the gifts You have given me:
The sky and the light. This my flesh.
Life and the soul—
Treasures invaluable, treasures of life and of love.

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

John 12: 20-36 (NRSVA):

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Liturgical Colour: Red or Violet

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you sent your Son to reconcile us to yourself and to one another.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
through you we put to death the sins of the body – and live.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

O God,
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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:

Now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood; for he is our peace. (Ephesians 2: 17)


Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:


66, Before the ending of the day (CD 4)
218, And can it be that I should gain (CD 14)

Prayer shawls on shelves in the synagogue in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

A church that replaced
the cathedral that was
never built in Nenagh

Saint Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co Tipperary … built in 1892-1906, designed by Walter Glynn Doolin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Nenagh owes its origins to the Butler family, who for centuries dominated this part of Ireland, and the Butlers took their titles from the territory in north Co Tipperary known as Ormond.

Originally, this part of North Munster was controlled by the O’Kennedy family. It was granted to Theobald Walter after he accompanied Prince John, later King John, to Ireland in 1185. Walter was also appointed Chief Butler of Ireland, an office that gave his descendants their family name.

Theobald Walter began to build a circular stone keep in Nenagh, and it was completed by his son, also called Theobald.

With walls five metres thick at its base and a diameter of 17.5 metres, Nenagh Castle rises to a height of 30 metres. The crenellations and the windows beneath were added in the 19th century when a Roman Catholic bishop entertained notions of turning the keep into the bell tower for a cathedral that was never built.

Nenagh Castle … Bishop Michael Flannery planned to incorporate the Butler castle into a new cathedral in Nenagh in the 1860s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A year after he became Bishop of Killaloe (1859-1891), Bishop Michael Flannery (1818-1891) launched plans to build a cathedral in Nenagh for the Diocese of Killaloe. It was 1860, and at the time, the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Ennis was functioning unofficially as a pro-cathedral, but it had never been consecrated as a cathedral.

Bishop Flannery commissioned Pugin and Ashlin to designed a new cathedral and presbytery in Nenagh, and the new bishop sent a number of priests, including his cousin, Father William Flannery, to North America on a fund-raising mission. He bought the site of Nenagh Castle and the surrounding land, and he began to restore the castle in order to incorporate it into his planned new cathedral.

However, the project depended substantially on American funding, and Bishop Flannery’s scheme came to an abrupt halt when the American Civil War broke out in 1861. The interior of the Pro-Cathedral in Ennis was completed that year under the supervision of JJ McCarthy.

By the time the Civil War came to an end in 1865, Bishop Flannery had asked for a coadjutor bishop to be appointed to the diocese, and he had moved to Paris in 1864, where he lived in virtual retirement until he died in 1891.

When Thomas McRedmond (1839-1904) succeed Michael Flannery as Bishop of Killaloe in 1891, he decided to base the diocese at the church in Ennis, and so the parish church was designated as the pro-cathedral of the Diocese of Killaloe.

Inside Saint Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Nenagh still needed a Roman Catholic parish church to replace an earlier church built in 1841. Saint Mary of the Rosary Church was built in 1892-1906 by the Parish Priest of Nenagh, Dean Patrick White, and when the first phase of building work was completed, the new church was dedicated in August 1896.

The church was designed by the Dublin-born architect Walter Glynn Doolin (1850-1902), whose works include Saint Carthage’s Church, Lismore, Co Waterford (1881-1892), the Father Mathew Memorial Hall in Dublin (1890-1891), Holy Cross Church and Monastery, Clonard in Belfast (1900) and the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael, New Ross, Co Wexford (1894-1902).

Thomas Drew was the assessor of the competition for the new church in Nenagh, and other entrants included Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin. The foundation stone was laid on 2 October 1892, and the church was built by John Sisk of Cork at a cost of £40,000. The church was dedicated in August 1896, and was consecrated on 14 October 1906.

The East Window in Saint Mary’s Church, Nenagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Ashlin and Coleman designed internal changes in 1910-1911, and the mosaic decoration of the apse and chancel and later work in the side chapels are the work of Ludwig Oppenheimer.

The high altar in Carrara marble is by Edmund Sharp (1853-1930), replicating one at Coatbridge in Scotland, with depictions of the Last Supper, the Nativity and the Ascension. A side altar, the altar rails and font were all designed and executed by Sharp.

This is a cruciform-plan church, aligned north/south rather than east/west. It has a gabled entrance front with a corner turret and flanked by a five-stage tower with a spire on the south-east (liturgical north-west), 10-bay side walls at the nave, with side aisles, a baptistry and a side porch at the east (liturgical south), transepts, its chancel at the liturgical east end and an L-plan sacristy with a porch.

The elaborate west (south) door at the entrance (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

At the liturgical west end, there is a Rose window and triple lancet traceried windows at the entrance front, with order surrounds, hood-mouldings and stained glass.

In the chancel, there is a five-light lancet window with engaged columns and hood-moulding. There are triple-light windows at the transept gable, traceried pointed-arch windows in the clerestory and lancet and twin-light windows elsewhere, some separated by marble columns.

The sculpture of Christ the King on the tympanum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The elaborate west (south) door at the entrance has a pair of pointed-arch door openings, with timber battened doors that have an order arch with engaged limestone and marble columns, a trumeau tympanum and archivolt above, and a sculpture of Christ the King on the tympanum, with flanking imposts. The side porch has a pointed order arch in a gabled projection.

Inside, there is an arcade of clustered Portland stone columns (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Inside, there is an arcade of clustered Portland stone columns, an open pointed truss roof and a sculpted reredos.

Doolin’s church in Nenagh remains a beautiful example of large-scale Gothic Revival architecture in Ireland in the late 19th century, with its finely-carved ashlar dressings, gargoyles and elaborate west doorway. Inside, the columns and pointed arches are of Portland stone and the nave revives the quatrefoil columns found in some 13th century Gothic parish churches in Ireland and in the west country in England.

The ‘south porch’ at Saint Mary’s Church, Nenagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

For Saint Mary’s Church of Ireland Parish Church, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, visit HERE

Praying that Notre Dame
rises with Easter hope
to continue its mission

Notre Dame this morning after last night’s fire (Photograph courtesy Phil Sutcliffe)

Patrick Comerford

I have been in France many times between 1979 and last year, and in Paris perhaps half a dozen times, if not more.

On one family holiday, I was persuaded – without much arm twisting – to go to Euro Disney, with the promise that I would have a day in Paris all to myself. And then, a few days later, we also decided to go back into Paris together again.

Two young boys wanted to climb the Eiffel Tower, see the Arc de Triomphe, and wondered did the hunchback actually live in the bell tower at Notre Dame.

Of course, I have visited each of these sites on many occasions. But there are many places I still have to visit in Paris РI have yet to visit the Louvre, for example. And there are some places that make me feel uncomfortable. Despite the beauty of Sacr̩ Coeur and the breath-taking views if offers across the city from Montmartre, the story of the massacre of the communards and the triumphalism of right-wing French royalism make me feel uncomfortable about visiting the basilica.

I was sent to Paris by The Irish Times when I was a journalist; I have been there to visit protesters when I was an activist in CND in the early 1980s; I have stopped overnight to break long-haul flights; and there have been family holidays too. Like every priest, I suppose, I too have come to find my own favourite churches in Paris. But on each occasion, I have also visited Notre Dame, which expresses in stone the spiritual heart of Paris and of France.

On one visit to Paris some years ago, four adult family members stayed near Montmartre, and I went for a jog on the butte of Montmartre each morning. But when it came to visiting Sacré Coeur, I was perhaps too blunt with the oldest family member when I expressed my views about the basilica and what it represented.

The tables were turned later that day when we visited Notre Dame. This same elderly family member questioned what she saw as the ostentation of the cathedral, and was disturbed, at the same time, by the large number of tourists trudging through, taking in their 30-minute experience of Notre Dame as they moved on to the next site, without pausing for prayer or reflection, even as the Mass was being celebrated in a side chapel.

The cross shines above the altar through the smoke and dust in Notre Dame this morning

At the time, I was working for an Anglican mission agency, and I was asked what I thought was the mission of Notre Dame.

I looked around, and noticed the large number of confession boxes, each offering the sacrament of reconciliation to visitors in a different language – French, English, German, Spanish, Korean … there must have been 10 different languages in all.

I made a quick calculation. It was a leap year. If each priest in each confession box heard only three confessions a day (say morning, noon and afternoon), then over the full 366 days that year Notre Dame would have been instrumental in reconciling at least 10,980 people with God, with the Church and with their own souls. And that is probably a low estimate, a very minimalist calculation.

I thought of the mission agency I was working with at the time. If it could state in its annual report that it reconciled 10,980 people, if not more, with God, with the Church and with their own souls each year, it would have no problem in fundraising in parishes and dioceses throughout the Church.

This has been the mission of Notre Dame for over 850 years … over 9 million people, at lowest possible calculation. This is the mission of every cathedral. Notre Dame is the same age as Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and both share the same dedication and patronage, as does Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton. Last night, during our Lenten Evening Prayer in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, we prayed for the priests and people of that other Saint Mary’s Church, Notre Dame in Paris, and for the people of Paris.

Cathedrals are the mission of the church in cities, where the stranger meets Christ, where Christ welcomes the unwelcome, where beauty shrines through the grime and dirt of everyday life. Their liturgy and their visible beauty hide a more beautiful, inestimable truth they hold as a treasure for the life of the Church and in the life of society.

This morning, a much-shared image on social media was a photograph of a cross glowing above a side altar through the dust and smoke of the charred cathedral.

For the sake of 9 million people over the next 850 years, I hope Notre Dame recovers quickly from last night’s disaster. Easter always offers the hope of new life.

The Rose Window … one of the lost glories of Notre Dame

Praying through Lent with
USPG (42): 16 April 2019

‘Jesus is stripped of his garments’ … Station X in the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Tuesday in Holy Week [16 April 2019]. Later this evening, I am leading and speaking at the Late Evening Office in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry (8 p.m.).

During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week, Holy Week, the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on the work of the Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS) and its Women’s Helpline, which provides pastoral support and counselling to help families to resolve issues of gender violence or marital discord.

This theme was introduced on Sunday morning with a short article telling Meera’s story.

Tuesday 16 April 2019, Tuesday in Holy Week:

Pray for the Delhi Brotherhood Society’s Women’s Helpline and for the pastoral support it provides, that those offering counselling will be sensitive to what they hear and wise in their advice.


Isaiah 49: 1-7; Psalm 71: 1-14; I Corinthians 1: 18-31; John 12: 20-36.

The Collect of the Day:

O God,
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow