30 September 2020

October 2020 in the Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

Harvest fields above the banks of the River Deel, near Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday 4 October 2020 (Trinity XVII, Harvest Thanksgiving), Green:

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer (Morning Prayer 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert)

Readings: Deuteronomy 8: 7-18; Psalm 65; Luke 17: 11-19


37: Come, ye thankful people, come (CD 3)
47: We plough the fields and scatter (CD 3)

Sunday 11 October 2020 (Trinity XVIII, Saint Philip the Deacon), Green:

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church, Kilcornan

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer (Morning Prayer 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

Readings: Exodus 32: 1-14; Psalm 106; Matthew 22: 1-14


529, Thy hand, O God, has guided (CD 30)
418, Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face (CD 25)

Sunday 18 October 2020 (Trinity XIX, Saint Luke the Evangelist), Green:

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer (Morning Prayer 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert)

Readings: Exodus 33: 12-23; Psalm 99; Matthew 22: 15-22


10, All my hope on God is founded (CD 1)
509, Your kingdom come, O God (CD29)

Sunday 25 October 2020 (Fifth Sunday before Advent, Bible Sunday), Green

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer (Morning Prayer 2), Castletown Church, Kilcornan

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

Readings: Deuteronomy 34: 1-12; Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17; Matthew 22: 34-46


515, ‘A new commandment I give unto you’ (CD 30)
525, Let there be love shared among us (CD 30)

Feast Days in October 2020:

11 October 2020: Saint Philip the Deacon.

18 October 2020: Saint Luke the Evangelist

23 October 2020: Saint James, the Brother of the Lord.

Advance Notice:

Sunday 8 November 2020: Remembrance Sunday.

Please Note:

The Harvest Thanksgiving Service planned for Friday 2 October 2020 has been cancelled, due to the current rise in Covid-19 figures. Instead, the Harvest Thanksgiving theme is being celebrated in our church services in Askeaton and Tarbert on Sunday 4 October 2020.

Facemasks or coverings must be worn in church, and the 2 metres social distancing rule must be respected.

If you feel vulnerable, or you are in the ‘at risk’ category, or you have recently been in contact with someone who has had Covid-19 symptoms, you may find comfort instead in reading the Sunday sermons and intercessions on-line.

Some pews have been roped off or marked off in each church to help us maintain social distancing. The names and contact details of people attending will be kept for 14 days, only for the purposes of contacting and tracing.

To reduce the amount of time we stay indoors, there are only two readings and two hymns each Sunday at the present.

No prayer books or hymnals are available, there is no exchange of peace, to reduce contact risks, and for these weeks there is no hymn-singing. But laminated service sheets are available in each church, and we can sit and thoughtfully listen to the two recorded hymns.

The Holy Communion is being administered only in one kind, and there is no shared common cup, for health reasons. We may find that the administration of Communion is awkward or difficult. But be assured we are all in Communion with God and with one another.

Hand sanitising facilities are available at each church. Please do not bring your own prayer book or hymnal, and please remember to take home everything, including your tissues.

A full barn on a farm near Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Three surviving castles in
Buttevant and the families
and legends linked with them

Buttevant Castle … the stronghold of the Barry family for almost 600 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Many years ago, while staying in Paris and visiting both the French capital and Versailles with other family members, I rose early before everyone to take an early morning exercise.

When I explained one morning I was taking an early daily jog up the butte of Montmartre, my mother joked in a way that I failed at the time to understand about ‘butte avant, Buttevant.’

She was from north Cork and had fluent French, after last week’s visit to Buttevant I know realise she was referring to the supposed origins of the town’s name in the motto of the Barry family, Boutez-en-Avant, ‘Push Forward.’

But the town predates a time when mottoes were adopted with consistency as an integral part of heraldic coats-of-arms.

The modern, structured town of Buttevant was laid out in the rectangular grid-like plan of bastide towns, enclosed by walls, common among important European towns of the time, especially in south-west France. Boutavant means ‘abutment’ in old French, or the front part of a castle, and so the town’s name may come from the French description of the first mediaeval castle built in Buttevant by the de Barry family.

The surviving fortified mediaeval remains of the bastitde grid plan that may be a more likely origin for the name of Buttevant include Buttevant Castle, or Barry’s Castle, on the southern fringes of the town; Lombard’s Castle in the centre of the town; and the Desmond Tower built beside the Franciscan friary and incorporated into Saint Mary’s Church when it was built in the 1830s.

Buttevant Castle, or Barry’s Castle, was built by Philip and William de Barry immediately after their family secured its hold on this part of north Cork in the early 13th century.

Philip de Barry came to Ireland in 1185 and was awarded the lands around Buttevant. The castle was a powerful defensive structure, as it was built on top of a high cliff of sheer rock, where it was probably named boutavant or ‘abutment.’

The swift-flowing Awbeg River below the weir offered a defensive protection for the castle. It guaranteed the water supply for the castle but also acted as a large natural moat, making an attack on the castle walls difficult.

Morrough O’Brien, who overran Munster in the 1400s, captured Buttevant and attacked the castle. But, thanks to its strong walls, the castle held firm.

During the Elizabethan plantation of Munster in the late 16th century, the castle was captured by Lord Deputy Sidney, who laid a successful siege that allowed him to occupy the castle for a time.

A Victorian post-box set into the former demesne walls of Buttevant Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A gargoyle above the front door is said to have watched Buttevant life for 800 years. Some say it is a representation of David Óg Barry, others say it is King John. All it has for company is the drummer boy who, according to local legend, is doomed to eternity to repeat his betrayal of the Barrys.

The boy is said to have betrayed the castle to Sidney. When the castle was taken, the bugler or drummer was executed by the victor, who said ‘Thus may all traitors perish.’ At night, it is said, his head still rolls down the stairs, crying ‘Betrayed, betrayed,’ and a bloodstain on the stairs cannot be washed away.

The Barry family received the titles of Lord Barry (13th century), Viscount Buttevant (1541) and Earl of Barrymore (1628). Richard Barry (1769-1793), 7th Earl of Barrymore, inherited 140,000 acres in Co Cork from his father in 1773. But accumulated gambling debts and financial difficulties forced his brother, Henry Barry (1770-1832), 8th Earl of Barrymore, to sell Buttevant Castle in 1799 to John Anderson of Cork.

Anderson renovated the mediaeval castle, transforming it into a fashionable stately home. But he too suffered financial problems after the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, and the castle was acquired by Hayes St Leger, Viscount Doneraile.

The castle changed hands a number of times after that, and it was lived in as a home until 1920. The last person to live in the castle was a Mrs Guiney, who left after a major fire. Although the castle and its surrounding grounds or demesne are now owned privately, the castle is accessible on a few days each year.

Lombard’s Castle stands on a prominent site on Richmond Street in Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Lombard’s Castle is a prominent site on Richmond Street, the continuation of Buttevant’s Main Street, with substantial intact remnants. It was the town house of a family of merchants who came to Buttevant from Lucca in Tuscany, south of Lombardy in northern Italy.

The Lombards were merchant adventurers who arrived in Ireland with the Anglo-Normans in the late 12th century. The main focus of the Lombards was the highly lucrative wool trade, and their tower house in Buttevant was conveniently located beside the Market House. Wool merchants like the Lombards became vastly wealthy during the mediaeval period, the monarchs regularly turned to wool merchants to borrow money, and they effectively become bankers and financiers.

The Lombards of Buttevant claimed descent from the Donatti family in Lucca, and the name Lombard was soon found throughout the Buttevant area.

David and James Lombard, merchants of Cork and Buttevant were part of the ‘The Merchants of Staple.’ In the turbulent years of the 14th century, large town walls were built protect Buttevant from raiding and warfare, and a will by James Lombard refers to the walls of Buttevant.

Lombard’s Castle is a 15th or early 16th century urban tower house, but it may stand on the site of an earlier building. It stands at the corner of the precise grid pattern plan of the mediaeval town, which suggests the Lombards were in Buttevant from the early stages of the mediaeval settlement.

A village south-west of Buttevant is called Lombardstown, showing the family’s continued influence in the post-mediaeval period.

Lombard’s Castle in Buttevant was confiscated in the mid-17th century. The tower house was described as Lombard’s Castle in 1690, when it was granted to Colonel John Gifford after the Williamite War, with two acres of gardens behind the castle and an orchard of one acre.

Smith’s History of Cork also described it as Lombard’s Castle in 1750. At the time, it was a free Protestant School established by the Dowager Lady Lanesborough, Lady Frances, a daughter of Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset.

It continued as a school until 1818 under the legacy from the Muschamp family, descendants of the family of Lady Lanesborough’s second husband, Denny Muschamp.

A mural on a gable end in Buttevant tells the stories of the Barry and Lombard families (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The Desmond Tower is thought to have been built by the Earl of Desmond ca 1400-1430 on the outer perimeter of the grounds of the neighbouring Franciscan friary. Some legends say it was built by the Earl of Desmond to offer protection to the Franciscan Friary. Other legends say he retired here, heartbroken after the death of his wife in childbirth. He had the door to the tower inserted some 10 ft from the ground to ensure his solitude.

It was incorporated into Saint Mary’s Church by the architect Charles Cottrell when the church was built in the 1830s.

However, integrating the Desmond tower, a genuine element of mediaeval architecture, into his new church, posed particular challenges for Cottrell.

On the east side of the new church, Cottrell did not use finely cut ashlar blocks but a more coarse rubble. so that the east gable, transept and east wall of the nave would better resemble the building techniques used in the mediaeval Desmond tower. This contrasts with the south and west elevations, where Cottrell used finely cut blocks laid in regular horizontal courses.
Charles Cottrell incorporated the Desmond Tower into Saint Mary’s Church when it was built in the 1830s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

29 September 2020

Two friaries in Buttevant,
Augustinian and Franciscan,
with shared name and history

The remains of the Augustinian Priory at Ballybeg, 2 km south of Buttevant, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

During my visit to Buttevant, Co Cork, I visited the town’s two parish churches: Saint Mary’s Church (Roman Catholic) and Saint John’s Church (Roman Catholic), and also visited the remains of two mediaeval friaries are still extensive in Buttevant. The Augustinian Priory was founded at Ballybeg, 2 km south of Buttevant in 1229, and the Franciscan Friary in the centre of the town was founded in 1251. Both were founded and endowed by the de Barry family of Buttevant Castle, and both were dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury.

About 2 km south of Buttevant, Ballybeg Priory was founded in 1229 by Philip de Barry for the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.

This priory was dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury, and the first prior was David de Cardigan who, like the priory’s founder, was Welsh. David Óg de Barry, the first Baron Barry, enhanced the revenues of the priory in 1251.

Ballybeg was built in the English Gothic style and was an extensive foundation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Ballybeg was built in the English Gothic style and was an extensive foundation. The priory church was 51 metres long and 7.9 metres wide. The cloister, on the south side of the church, was 27 metres square.

The ruins today include a long rectangular nave and chancel church with the remains of a cloister on the southside, a dovecote, a fortified tower at the west end of the church and – about 70 metres to the north of the church – a late mediaeval tower.

The most striking remaining feature is the crossing of the church. This was substantially reworked, as can be seen with the insertion of an arch that obscures the gothic windows. This arch may have been inserted to support the crossing tower.

The west wall of the church, which was incorporated into a tower that was added in the 14th or 15th century, has two fine lancet windows. There is evidence of a lean-to roof over a cloister walk on the south wall of the church. The west wall of the cloister also survives but not at its original height.

A block of masonry inside the cloister area may be the remains of a lavabo, a stone basin where monks washed their hands before communal meals.

The small circular tower near the south-east of the priory ruins was a dovecote or columbarium (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A small circular tower near the south-east of the main priory ruins was a dovecote or columbarium, that housed 11 rows of roosting boxes for pigeons or doves. The meat and eggs of the birds were an important food source, and their droppings were highly prized as fertiliser.

Another indication of the importance of the priory is the remains of a fishpond. Unlike other manors, however, the priory of Ballybeg does not appear to have had an enclosure for deer.

The Augustinians Priory in Ballybeg owned over 2,000 acres of land, along with numerous rectories throughout the Diocese of Cloyne.

Ballybeg Priory was dissolved at the Tudor Reformation in 1541 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

At the dissolution of the monastic houses during the Tudor Reformation, Ballybeg Priory was dissolved in 1541. In the reign of Elizabeth I, the property of the priory of Ballybeg passed into the hands of the Master of Ordinance, Sir George Bouchier.

In the reign of James I, it was held in the names of Elizabeth Norreys of Mallow, daughter of Thomas Norreys, Lord President of Munster, Sir John Jephson and Sir David Norton.

The last recorded titular Prior of Ballybeg was John Baptist Sleyne (1635-1712), Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, who died in exile at Lisbon. The priory was in ruins by 1750, and parts of the ruin are still used by a farm.

The ruins of the Franciscan Friary beside Saint Mary’s Church, on the Main Street, Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The ruins of the Franciscan Friary are in the centre of Buttevant, beside Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on the Main Street. The friary was also dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury and housed a thriving community from the mid-13th to mid-16th century. It still possesses some of the earliest examples of Franciscan architecture in Ireland.

The first friary of the Observant Franciscans in Ireland was founded at Youghal, Co Cork, by Maurice FitzGerald in 1224. The friary in Buttevant was founded from Youghal and was the only Franciscan house in North Cork.

The Annals of the Four Masters record it was founded and endowed in 1251 by David Óg de Barry. The townland of Lagfrancis was assigned as the glebe for its mensa.

The east window in the Franciscan friary church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

At first, the Franciscan friary had a rectangular church. A transept was added later, with a triumphal arch that faced south, towards the Barry family’s castle. The Bell Tower was added in the final phase and was placed equidistant from both gables of the friary.

The Franciscans were mendicant friars who lived by preaching and on charity. But their patrons in Buttevant, the Barry family, financed several major redevelopments of the friary. Over the centuries, these expansions showed the growing wealth and power of the Barrys.

By 1324, Buttevant friary consisted of a community of Irish and Anglo-Norman friars and was important enough to maintain its own stadium or house of studies.

However, the community was divided by tensions between the Anglo-Norman and Irish friars. A Papal commission investigated a decision to transfer a Gaelic friar from Buttevant to one of the Gaelic friaries, and the Friary in the 1320s, at the time when the friary in Buttevant had been transferred to a new jurisdiction, separating it from other Irish friaries and linking it to Anglo-Norman friaries.

Inside the church of the Franciscan friary in Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The Cloyne diocesan records from the 1400s show that the law courts in Buttevant operated at the door of the friary church. In mediaeval Buttevant, the friary porch was the place to make legal agreements, renew or grant leases on Lady Day and Michaelmas, to swear fealty, to do homage and to marriages. These records also record the same legal functions at the front door of the parish church of Saint Bridget, the site later of Saint John’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Buttevant.

When of the monastic houses were dissolved during the Tudor reformation in the 1540s, the Franciscan friary in Buttevant included the friary church, the conventual buildings, a garden, a cemetery, and a watermill.

James de Barry (1520-1581), 4th Viscount Buttevant, obtained a 21-year lease of the friary in 1571. At the outbreak of the Desmond Rebellions, he joined the rebels and when his estates were confiscated, the friary in Buttevant passed to Edmund Spenser in the Plantation of Munster. However, by 1615 or earlier, the friary had reverted to his son, David de Barry (1550-1617), 5th Viscount Buttevant.

The Franciscan friars continued to live in Buttevant until the early 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Evidence shows the Franciscan friars continued to live at the friary in late Elizabethan and Jacobean Buttevant. Reports in 1615 and 1629 show the large friary church was still roofed and held many of the tombs of the local nobility, and the friary buildings ‘were spacious and numerous.’

At the Irish Rebellion in 1641, the Franciscan community in Buttevant welcomed the Confederate army of Lord Mountgarret, and the guardian, Father Boetius Egan, attended the Confederate Parliament in Kilkenny in 1642. But Murrough O’Brien, Earl of Inchiquin, assembled the Parliamentarian army in Buttevant and burned the friary church.

The friars returned to Buttevant at the Restoration. Two friars continued to live in Buttevant in the 18th century, and the friary was still being used by friars in 1731, according to a report presented to the House of Lords.

By 1800, only one old friar was left in Buttevant, and he died soon afterwards. The great Bell Tower, which had been silent for centuries but continued to dominate the friary ruins, collapsed in 1814, and greatly damaged an already fragile, crumbling building. By 1820, the Franciscan presence in Buttevant had come to end after almost 600 years.

Architectural remains and portions of graves were inserted in the north wall of the friary church in the 1830s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020

Canon Cornelius Buckley, who built Saint Mary’s Church in the 1830s, removed the rubble inside the friary nave and chancel , and collected the architectural remnants that were inserted in the north wall, as a ‘sort of mediaeval museum for the curious,’ as the antiquarian, Richard Brash described it.

A large quantity of human remains and bones was collected at this stage. For some years, they were of ghoulish interest to visitors, but were later reburied in the crypt under the friary.

Samuel Lewis noted in his Topographical Dictionary in 1837, that the tomb of the founder, David de Barry, ‘is supposed to be in the centre of the chancel, but is marked only by some broken stones which appear to have formed an enclosure.’ Other families buried in the nave and chancel included the Barrys, Fitzgeralds, Lombards, and others.

The remains of the friary today include a church with a piscina and a number of elaborate carvings. The church and transept are complete, many stones belonging to the cloister arcade are stored in the upper vault under the choir, while there are good carved stones in the lower vault, and some windows in the church have been rebuilt.

Portion of a carved mediaeval crucifixion, inserted in a wall in the south transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Being prepared, like Saint Michael,
to ponder ‘Who is like the Lord God?’

Saint Michael with the whales in a window depicting the story of Saint Brendan in Saint Michael’s Church, Sneem, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Saint Michael and All Angels

11 a.m.:
The Festal Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

Readings: Genesis 28: 10-17; Psalm 103: 19-22; Revelation 12: 7-12; John 1: 47-51.

Skellig Michael seen from Valentia Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

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

The name Michael (Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל‎, Mîkhā'ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaíl) means ‘who is like El (God)?’ It is meant to be a question: ‘Who is like the Lord God?’

The name was said to have been the war-cry of the angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers.

There are few references to Saint Michael by name in the Bible (Daniel 10: 13, 21, 12: 1; Jude 9; Revelation 12: 7-9; see also Revelation 20: 1-3). Yet he has inspired great works in our culture, from John Milton’s Paradise Lost to Jacob Epstein’s powerful sculpture at Coventry Cathedral and poems by Philip Larkin and John Betjeman.

In all our imagery, in all our poetry, in stained glass windows throughout these islands, Saint Michael is depicted and seen as crushing or slaying Satan, often Satan as a dragon.

Culturally, today’s feast day of Saint Michael and All Angels has been an important day for the Church: the beginning of terms, the end of the harvest season, the settling of accounts.

As we went picking blackberries around Ballysteen in recent days, I was reminded how, as children in West Waterford, we were told that Michaelmas Day is the last day for picking blackberries. It is a superstition shared across the islands, from Achill to Lichfield, from Wexford to Essex and Cambridge.

This is a day to allow the mind to wander back to childhood memories, and a time for contemplation and unstructured prayers, giving thanks for the beauty of creation. It is a day to think about and to give thanks for beginnings and endings, for starting and finishing, for openings and closings, for memories and even for forgetfulness.

Yet Michael is mentioned by name in the Bible only in the Book of Daniel, the Epistle of Saint Jude and in the Book of Revelation.

After a period of fasting by Daniel, Michael appears as ‘one of the chief princes’ (Daniel 10: 13). Michael contends for Israel and is the ‘great prince, the protector of your (Daniel’s) people’ (Daniel 10: 21, 12: 1).

In the Epistle of Saint Jude (verse 9), Michael contends with the Devil over the body of Moses, a story also found in the Midrash. In the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12: 7-12), we read of the war that ‘broke out in heaven’ between Michael and his angels and the dragon.

In the early Church, Saint Michael is associated with the care of the sick, an angelic healer and heavenly physician associated with medicinal springs, streams and rivers.

In the Middle Ages, he became the patron of warriors, and later the patron of police officers, soldiers, paratroopers, mariners, paramedics, grocers, the Ukraine, the German people, of many cities, including Brussels, Coventry and Kiev. It was only later that he became identified with Marks and Spencer.

Saint Michael was popular in the early Irish monastic tradition, and legends in Co Kerry – as I found out during my travels this summer – associate him with Skellig Michael and with guarding Saint Brendan during his sea voyages.

In the modern world, where angels and archangels are often the stuff of fantasy, science fiction and new-age babble, it is worth reminding ourselves about some Biblical and traditional values associated with Saint Michael and the Angels. Angels are nothing more than – but nothing less than – the messengers of God, the bringers of good news.

Saint Michael’s virtues – standing up for God’s people and their rights, taking a clear stand against manifest evil, firmly opposing oppressive violence and political corruption, while always valuing forbearance and mercy, clemency and justice – are virtues we should always keep before us.

There is no special preface in the Book of Common Prayer for the Eucharist at Michaelmas because in the Preface to the Eucharist we already declare: ‘And so with all your people, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying ...’

In his poem ‘At the chiming of light upon sleep,’ first drafted on Saint Michael’s Day 1946, the poet Philip Larkin links Michaelmas and a lost paradise with chances and opportunities he failed to take in his youth.

We should always be prepared, like Saint Michael and the angels to ask and to answer the question: ‘Who is like the Lord God?’ and to join the whole company of heaven in proclaiming God’s great and glorious name.

In a world that is increasingly filled with hatred and injustice, in a world witnessing the rise of political populism and right-wing racism, we are called once again to follow Saint Michael’s example, to took stock, even to take the opportunity to believe that things can be ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’

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

‘You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending’ (John 1: 51) … an angel in stucco work on shop façade in Sneem, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

John 1: 47-51 (NRSVA):

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48 Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49 Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50 Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

An image of Saint Michael vanquishing the devil in stained-glass window in a church in Clonmel, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Liturgical colour: White


Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Woe is me, for I am lost;
I am a person of unclean lips.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your guilt is taken away,
And your sin is forgiven.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministries
of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
Grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Hear again the song of angels:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace. (Luke 2: 14)

The Post-Communion Prayer (Saint Michael):

Lord of heaven,
in this Eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect.
As in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Blessing:

The God of all creation
guard you by his angels,
and grant you the citizenship of heaven:

Saint Michael’s Church, Waterville, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)


346, Angel voices, ever singing (CD 21)
332, Come let us join our cheerful song (CD 20)

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.

Picking blackberries in Ballysteen, near Askeaton, before Saint Michael’s Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Two Gothic Revival
parish churches in
Buttevant, Co Cork

Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic parish church, the dominant building on the streets of Buttevant, Co Cork, was designed by Charles Cotterel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Following my visit to Liscarroll and Liscarroll Castle at the end of last week, I continued on to the neighbouring town of Buttevant in north Co Cork.

Buttevant has a lengthy and interesting religious heritage. The old Gaelic name for the town, Cill na Mullach, means ‘Church on the Hillcocks’ or ‘Church on the Summits’ and was rendered in Latin as Ecclesia Tumulorum.

The survival of this Irish name indicates a church heritage in Buttevant that long predates the arrivals of the de Barry family and the Anglo-Normans at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Several other Irish placenames have been assigned to Buttevant by successive officials, including Cill na mBeallach, Cill na Mollach, and, more recently, Cill na Mallach, which might signify ‘the Church of the Curse,’ leading to confusion with nearby Killmallock in Co Limerick.

It was natural that I should visit the main ecclesiastical sites in Buttevant, including Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic parish church, Saint John’s Church of Ireland parish church, and the ruins of the Franciscan and Augustinian friaries.

Saint Mary’s Church stands within the site of the mediaeval Franciscan friary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

One of the principal architectural features on the Main Street in Buttevant is Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic parish church. The foundation stone for this church was laid just two years after Catholic Emancipation in 1829. The Church was built with locally sourced fine limestone and took five years to complete.

The site, adjoining the ruins of the mediaeval Franciscan friary, was donated to the parish by Lord Doneraile, and the Board of Works provided a grant of £600. Saint Mary’s was designed by the Cork architect Charles Cotterel in the Gothic Perpendicular style, similar in style to Saint John’s, the neighbouring Church of Ireland parish church which was built in 1826.

Charles Cotterel – whose name is also spelt Cottrell and Cotterell – was working as an architect in Cork from the 1820s until the 1860s. He may have been the son of Edward Francis Cottrell, architect of Hanover Street, Cork.

He is listed as a builder or architect at Wandesford Bridge in Pigot’s Directory (1824) and as an architect in the Cork Constitution (1831), and in directories in 1842-1843, 1846 and 1863. His other works include a design for a steeple for Christ Church, Cork, and he was the architect of the Franciscan Church in Grattan Street, Cork (1830).

Saint Mary’s Church, Buttevant, was built and completed in two distinct phases between 1824 and 1864 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint Mary’s is the dominant building on the streets of Buttevant, standing in an interesting position between two terraces of houses and shops. Cotterel’s design makes full use of the site and incorporates a mediaeval watch tower from the Franciscan friary, at the east side.

Previously, Buttevant’s penal church was in Mill Lane, near the Mill. During a visit in 1828, Bishop Collins said, ‘the chapel was almost a ruin.’

Saint Mary’s was built and completed in two distinct phases between 1824 and 1864, and Father Cornelius Buckley was a driving force in this project.

Father Cornelius Buckley was a driving force in building Saint Mary’s Church, Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

It was difficult to find a suitable site for the church. Canon law did not permit a church site without freehold status to be consecrated as holy ground or to build a church on it. John Anderson had owned the manor of Buttevant and his bankruptcy caused confusion regarding the ownership and ancient rights of the property.

However, by 1831, Lord Doneraile had bought the Manor of Buttevant and donated the site for a new church.

The site included the ruins of the Franciscan friary with its graveyard to the north of the friary, in what had been its cloister, as well as the ruins of a Desmond tower and the vacant lots on the Main Street between two existing terraces.

Inside Saint Mary’s Church, Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A building committee was formed in 1829 to raise funds for the project. The initial estimate of £3,000 underestimated the scale of the project and merely built the walls and roof. The foundation stone was laid in 1831, the building was completed by Christmas 1835 and the church was consecrated on 6 October 1836.

The fundraising efforts continued, including a celebrity sermon by the temperance campaigner Father Theobald Mathew in December 1842.

But the Great Famine (1845-1849) intervened and the project stopped for several years.

The chancel window in Saint Mary’s Church, Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A second building committee was formed to complete the church. Richard Brash was contracted in June 1855 to complete the interior of Saint Mary’s. This included building the sacristy and completing the interior by laying out the chancel, installing the ceiling and providing tracery and glass for three of the main windows.

Other additions included two side altars, 12 gothic seats and removing the bell from the new tower to the old one. The committee also enclosed the church grounds.

Due to the constraints of the site, the church is aligned on a north-south axis rather than the traditional east-west liturgical axis.

Saint Mary’s has a three-stage bell tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint Mary’s has a three-bay nave, a three-stage bell tower to street, west elevation, a 15th-century tower to the east elevation and a gable-fronted sacristy addition at the west elevation.

The features include the clock on the west tower, pointed arch windows with chamfered surrounds, sills, hood-mouldings and stained glass. There is panelled tracery in the windows in the transepts and the south gable, double-light windows in the nave, lancet arch windows in the tower, timber louvers blind windows, pointed windows, pointed arch chamfered door openings with carved timber panelled doors, and a Tudor arch door opening.

The Tudor arch door at Saint Mary’s Church, Buttevant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

There are decorative floor tiles, a limestone threshold, a marble altar, altar rail and steps, and a mosaic floor, and a ribbed depressed Tudor arch ceiling with gold-leaf render decoration.

The retention of original features such as the carved timber panelled doors, the stained-glass windows and the intricate stonework, add character and charm to this building and to the town.

Saint John’s Church, beside Buttevant Castle, stands on the site of two earlier churches – one dedicated to Saint Brigid and the other to the Virgin Mary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The earlier and now-closed Church of Ireland parish church, Saint John’s Church, is at the south end of the town, just off the Main Street and close to Buttevant Castle.

Saint John’s was built in 1826 and was designed in the Gothic Perpendicular style by the Limerick-based architect James Pain (1779-1877) and his brother George Richard Pain (1793-1838), who was based in Cork.

The church stands on a site that has been of religious significance in Buttevant for centuries, with the ruins of not one but two previous churches on the site – one dedicated to Saint Brigid and the other to the Virgin Mary.

Saint John’s Church was built in 1826 on the site of an older church, Saint Mary’s, that was built ca 1698.

Saint John’s was built at a time when John Anderson (1747-1820) and his son, James Caleb Anderson (1792-1861), were responsible for the increased wealth and redevelopment of Buttevant.

Saint John’s cost £1,476 18s to build and was financed by local contributions and a loan from the Board of First Fruits.

In his Topographical Dictionary (1837), Samuel Lewis describes Saint John’s: ‘The church is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower surmounted by a finely proportioned spire: it is situated near the river and within the castle demesne, and was built in 1826, near the site of an ancient church, of which there are still some remains, and on the site of another of more recent date …’

Saint John’s Church was built in 1826 in the Gothic Perpendicular style, designed by the brothers James Pain and George Richard Pain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint John’s became the church for the larger Buttevant Union, and Bregoge, Kilbroney and Cahirduggan had joined the Buttevant Union in 1820. Several families from Doneraile, including Viscount Doneraile, the Revd F Crofts and James Grove White, joined the Buttevant community following an argument with their rector in Doneraile, the Revd H Somerville.

The south-facing window depicting the Sermon on the Mount is said to be the work of Stephen Adams Junior, whose father was a renowned stained-glass artist and designer and co-founder of the School of Arts and Crafts at Glasgow. The window is dedicated to those ‘who formerly worshipped in this Church,’ and contains a section of the window from Rheims Cathedral that was destroyed during World War I.

Saint John’s Church also has an early 18th century hatchment that was have originally in the now demolished church in Kilbolane, near Milford. The Kilbolane Hatchment has been identified it as the impaled arms of the Very Revd Jonathan Bruce and his wife, Mary (Prytherick). Bruce was curate of Kilbolane from 1708 to 1729, and also Dean of Kilfenora. Mary Bruce, for whom the hatchment was made, died in 1731.

Saint John’s continued in use until it was partially closed in 1980. It is now under the care of the Friends of Saint John’s who maintain it and use it for community events.

Saint John’s Church is under the care of the Friends of Saint John’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

28 September 2020

How the Tierney brothers
from Rathkeale became
part of Regency court life

Liscarroll Castle, Co Cork … passed briefly in the 19th century with the Perceval estates to the Tierney family from Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

The fortunes of the Perceval family and the Tierney family became entwined in the Regency period, and following last Friday’s visit to Liscarroll Castle I came across the story of how the vast Perceval estates in north Cork almost passed to the Tierney family who had more humble origins in Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

On the death of George III, on 29 January 1820, the heir to the throne, the Prince Regent, lay seriously ill and his doctors had little hope of his recovery. On the evening of 2 February, his condition suddenly became critical and he was attended by a young doctor from Rathkeale, Matthew Tierney (1776-1845), who had arrived in London from Brighton. George IV recovered and Dr Tierney was credited with saving his life.

Matthew Tierney and his brother Edward (1780–1856) were the sons of John Tierney of Ballyscanlan, near Rathkeale, Co Limerick, a small farmer and weaver, and his wife Mary, daughter of James Gleeson. Matthew was born on 24 November 1776 and Edward was born in June 1780.

As boys, they received a modest education at a local hedge school, and Matthew was apprenticed to a local pharmacist in Rathkeale.

He left for London, swearing never to return to Rathkeale, and found a position as a pharmacist’s assistant. There he attended evening classes at Guy’s Hospital and at Saint Thomas’s Hospital, Southwark studying under Dr Saunders and Dr Babington.

Matthew Tierney became a great friend of Dr Edward Jenner, who had pioneered the vaccine against smallpox. Through Jenner’s influence, Tierney was admitted to study medicine at Glasgow University.

Tierney graduated in medicine in Glasgow in 1802, having selected cowpock as his inaugural essay. In the summer of 1802 he set up his own medical practice in Brighton, where he contributed materially to the formation of a vaccine institution in that town – the first that was established outside London – and he was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1806.

At Brighton, Tierney was introduced by his patron, Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkeley, to the Prince Regent and future King George IV, who soon appointed him physician to his household in Brighton. He was appointed physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales in 1809, and in 1816 he became physician in ordinary to the Prince Regent.

While Tierney was in practise in Brighton, he was credited with saving the life of the Prince Regent. His fame spread, his practice grew, he was much in favour at court, and he was made a baronet on 3 October 1818, with the title of Sir Matthew Tierney and with the designation ‘of Brighthelmstone and of Dover Street.’

Following the accession of King George IV, he was gazetted physician in ordinary to the king, and he continued in the same office with King William IV, who in 1831 made him a knight commander of the Royal Guelphic Order of Hanover.

Meanwhile, Sir Matthew had no sons to succeed to the title of baronet he had received in 1818. He was made a baronet yet again on 5 May 1834, with the same designation but with a provision this time that the title could be inherited by his brother and his brother’s descendants.

Tierney published his Observations on Variola Vaccina, or Cow Pock in 1840.

He died at his residence on the Pavilion Parade, Brighton, on 28 October 1845 and was buried in his family vault at Saint Nicholas’s Rest Garden.

Meanwhile, his brother Edward Tierney, who was born in Limerick in June 1780, was apprenticed to a solicitor in Limerick, was admitted to King’s Inns in 1798, and and was called to the bar ca 1806. When his mother died on 2 February 1809, he was living at 2 Catherine Street, Limerick.

He practised as a solicitor in Dublin and kept in touch with his brother in England.

Sir Matthew Tierney married Harriet Mary Jones, daughter of Henry Jones of Bloomsbury Square, London, in 1808 and in 1812 Edward married her sister, Anna Maria Jones, in Saint George’s Church, Hanover Square, London. By then, Edward Tierney was living in a large house at 48 Thomas Street, Limerick. Each bride had a fortune of more than £20,000.

Sir Matthew’s influence with the King procured for his brother, Edward, the appointment of Crown Solicitor for Ulster with a salary of £10,000 a year. Edward visited his brother on several occasions and in court circles in London and Brighton he was introduced to Bridget Wynn, daughter of Glyn Wynn and Countess of Egmont, the beautiful wife of John Perceval, 4th Earl of Egmont.

When Edward Tierney’s first son was born, Lady Egmont and her son Henry were his sponsors, and he was named Perceval Tierney. Lord Egmont appointed Edward Tierney as his agent at his Irish estates in 1823, including Liscarroll Castle and thousands of acres around Churchtown, Kanturk and Buttevant in north Cork.

Tierney was an able manager and he transformed the estate with great improvements.

John, 4th Earl of Egmont died on 31 December 1835 and was succeeded by his only son, Henry, who was godfather to Edward Tierney’s first son. Henry Perceval (1796-1841), 5th Earl of Egmont, was known for his drunkenness and loose living. He had no heir and when he died in 1841, he left all his estates in England and Ireland to his agent, Edward Tierney, while the family titles passed to his distant cousin, George Perceval (1794-1874), 3rd Lord Arden, who became 6th Earl of Egmont without receiving one penny from his ancestral estates.

Sir Edward Tierney succeeded to his brother’s second title in 1845, and died on 4 June 1856 at the age of 76. The title of baronet passed to his son, Sir Matthew Edward Tierney (1818-1860), as third baronet, but he left his estates to his son-in-law, the Revd Sir Lionel Darell (1817-1883).

The sixth earl went to court against Darrell to recover the estates in a remarkable case before the Summer Assizes at Cork in 1863. After four days, the case was settled. Egmont recovered Liscarroll Castle and his and his ancestral estates, but Darell was awarded £125,000 and costs.

Egmont died on 2 August 1874 and was succeeded by his nephew, Charles George Perceval (1845-1897), 7th Earl of Egmont, who sold the Perceval estates in Co Cork, totalling 62,500 acres, to the tenants under the Ashbourne Land Act in 1895.

Sir Matthew Tierney (1776-1845) and his brother Sir Edward Tierney (1780–1856) were born in Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘These things do I remember
and my heart is grieved! How the
arrogant have devoured our people!’

Day of Atonement (ca 1907) by Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a day a fasting and prayer, when Jews ask for forgiveness for their sins over the past year as well as being a time for reflection and thinking of others.

Yom Kippur officially started with Kol Nidre at sundown last night, and ends at sundown this evening (28 September). Yom Kippur concludes the Ten Days of Awe, which began on Rosh Hashanah.

The greetings exchanged during Yom Kippur include גמר חתימה טובה (G’mar Hatimah Tovah), ‘May you be sealed for a good year [in the Book of Life]’, or צוֹם קַל (Tzom Kal), ‘Have an easy fast.’

Rabbi Dovid Rosenfield says, ‘Yom Kippur is not about personal resolutions and private reflection. It is about standing up and talking to God. It is about apologising, about re-establishing our connection with our Creator. We must tell God who we are, where we are holding in life, and what we know needs improvement.’

This is a day of repentance, fasting and solemn reflection, and its liturgy includes a tribute to ancient sages who died under Roman rule. Many people mark Yom Kippur with a recitation of the martyrdom of 10 ancient Jewish sages. In recent decades, similar liturgies and poems have been written to commemorate victims of pogroms in Europe and of the Holocaust.

Many synagogues in the US today will also be commemorating 11 new martyrs, who were murdered two years ago on Yom Kippur, 27 October 2018, when a gunman killed 11 worshipers from three congregations as they gathered for worship and Torah study at the Tree of Life or Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.

They were from three congregations — Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life. Some were saying a prayer of thanksgiving and praise known as the Kaddish d’Rabbanan, others were opening the siddur or prayer book.

It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, and in the weeks before the US presidential election it remains a reminder of how racism and anti-semitism have seen exponential increases in Trump’s America.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, of New Light Congregation, who survived the Pittsburgh attack, paid tribute to the 11 murdered victims by writing a new poem last year, ‘Eileh Ezkarah for Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Perlman wrote the poem in Hebrew and in English, with help from other rabbis and Hebrew experts, Tamar Elad-Applebaum, Martin Cohen and Tovi Admon. The Hebrew title comes from the opening words, ‘These things do I remember’:

These things do I remember and my heart is grieved!
How the arrogant have devoured our people!
Who would believe that in our day there would be no intervention
For the eleven slaughtered from our holy community?

What occurred in our Holy Sanctuary that day
As the enemy came to tread upon our holy space
His wielding sword to break apart our memories from that place
The sanctified recalled a few that remained —

Among some their faces turned to one another before ‘Kaddish d’Rabbanan’
Among some their faces turned toward the door to welcome new faces
Among some they quickly assisted their friends in finding
their place in the Siddur
Among some those engaged in Torah Study
And among some who were in the kitchen preparing the next meal.

And to the eleven, God spoke in a whisper
‘The time has arrived to sanctify My Name in public ...’
For in the future their children and congregations would remember
That we are Sanctifiers of Life who come to live.
We buried our bodies
And upon them we wept
And even so, this did not break us.

As long as this breath is within us
We ponder the world you created for us
And evening and morning, each and every day,
We gather and we cry out as one:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

27 September 2020

On Kol Nidre, ‘we are like
wild grapes. We are
beautiful, and we are sour’

Inside the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, built in 1868 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This evening is Kol Nidre, the evening that marks the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. This holy day is observed traditionally with a day-long fast and intensive prayer, with many Jews often spending most of the day at synagogue services.

On her blog, ‘Velveteen Rabbi,’ Rabbi Rachel Barenblat says, ‘Our task on Yom Kippur is to wrestle with the radical idea that God has already forgiven our screw-ups – and we need to love ourselves enough to forgive our screw-ups, too. Because there is work to do, and we can’t do that work if we're still stuck on the old year’s failures.’

She first published this poem, ‘Kold Nidre,’ in What Stays, the second chapbook of her poems (Bennington Writing Seminars Alumni Chapbook Series, 2002.) Since then, it has been used in congregations and independent minyanim during Kol Nidre services.



My people break our promises publicly.
We stand and say ‘Hey, God, you know,

you can’t hold us to anything really,
I mean we’re creation, right?’ We declare

all vows, promises, and oaths of the year to come – all vows we’re too silent

or too weak or forgetful to uphold –
null and void in advance.

We say, ‘God, you’re listening, right?’ We say,
‘Don’t worry, God. We still feel guilt.’

We are like wild grapes.
We are beautiful, and we are sour.

Forgive us, and forgive
the stranger in our midst.


In Stolpce, my grandfather’s town,
some sons ran away, abandoned God.
Joined the army, splashed water
on bare faces, cooked pea soup with bacon.
Even they would gather once a year,
press their ears to the synagogue door,
whisper the Aramaic words and weep.

My grandmother’s house in Prague
had a Christmas tree up to the ceiling.
When children said she’d killed their God
she said, ‘That must have been the Polish Jews.’
For Kol Nidre she wore her new fur coat
and walked the cobbled promenade.
At eighty she still fasted, stood and swayed.

Once my Hebrew teacher stood a girl
in the trash because she wouldn’t learn.
I came home bursting with new sounds
and imitated his accent at the dinner table.
I argued with our yardman, a Jehovah’s Witness.
Later Eloisa chewed him out in Spanish:
didn’t he know what Jewish meant?


So that our vows may no longer be vows
we knock on our breasts with loose fists,

we speak an abecedarium of sins.
We know the disclaimer only lasts so long;

next year we’ll be back with our court
of three, holding scrolls, looking solemn.

We know how foolish we sound
but the melody is old, and makes us cry.

Kol Nidrei, sung by Cantor Angela Buchdahl at Central Synagogue, New York, on Friday 13 September 2013

Sunday intercessions on
27 September 2020 (Trinity XVI)

‘Grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do’ … a T-shirt on sale in the Plaka in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

We pray for all in authority and all who make decisions,
that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do.

We pray for the nations of the world;
we pray for our own government and all governments;
we pray for our local community;
we pray for all who live with fear, anxiety and uncertainty;

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

We pray for the Church,
that we may both perceive and know
what things we ought to do.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Episcopal Church of Sudan,
and for the Most Revd Ezekiel Kumir Kondo,
Archbishop of Sudan and Bishop of Khartoum.

Throughout the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Meath and Kildare,
for Bishop Pat Storey,
and for the people and priests of the diocese.

We pray for our bishop, Kenneth,
and for his ministry, mission and witness …

We pray for all being ordained at this time …

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray this week
for the retired clergy in the dioceses.

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

We pray for ourselves,
that they may both perceive and know
what things we ought to do.

We give thanks for new life …
for Simon Michael Foley …
for his parents, Nicky White and Rob Foley …
for his sister, Tamsin …
for his grandparents, Hilary and Simon …

We pray for students worried about a new academic year …

We pray for those in need:

In our hearts, we name individuals, families, neighbours,
care homes, hospitals, voluntary groups …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Alan … Margaret … Lorraine …
Ajay… Joey … Ena … Trixie …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
We remember, and give thanks for, the faithful departed …
including Bertha Marsh, who died earlier this week …
the Revd Marie Rowley-Brooks, who died last week …
may their families find comfort and support in the prayers of friends …
May their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer for this day in the prayer diary
of the Anglican mission agency USPG
(United Society Partners in the Gospel):

O God, make us faithful witnesses in the mission of your Church.
Help us to seek justice,
to work for healing and salvation of all.
Renew and empower us with your Holy Spirit
to build your kingdom on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Merciful Father …

These intercessions were prepared for Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on Sunday 27 September 2020 (Trinity XVI)

Saying the right thing
at the right time, and
putting it into practice

‘This is Sam. Sam stays in Dublin. Be like Sam.’

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 27 September 2020

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVI)

9:30: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick

11:30: The Parish Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

The Readings: Exodus 17: 1-7; Psalm 78: 1-4, 12-16; Matthew 21: 23-32.

He said to his sons, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today’ (see Matthew 21: 28) … working in a vineyard in Platanias, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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

It looks like the new Covid-19 figures mean we are facing a new series of pandemic lockdowns in the coming weeks.

We all agree that everything must be done for the sake of public health. But when it comes to our own lives, I and many like me are slow to change our own lifestyles, to bear our share of the burden.

We find it difficult to make the practical connections, the links, between what we say and what we do.

It is important that the church says what we believe in, but also that churches does what we believe in, that there is a consistency between what we say and what we do.

To illustrate that there must be a connection between our words and our deeds, the insurance group AIG has responded to the latest lockdown in Dublin and has paid for a new set of advertising hoardings with an image of the Sam Maguire Cup and the slogan, ‘This is Sam. Sam stays in Dublin. Be like Sam.’

To be consistent with what we say and what we do, the Dean of Trim, the Very Revd Paul Bogle, and I have had lengthy conversations in the past week and decided that it would send out all the wrong signals if we went ahead with the Harvest Thanksgiving service he was to preach at in Rathkeale next Friday (2 October 2020).

I hope we can still mark the Harvest and give thanks for it at our services next Sunday in Askeaton and Tarbert. But it is important that the Church is not only heard saying the right thing, but seen doing the right thing at this time of great public crisis.

In our Gospel reading this morning (Matthew 21: 23-32), Christ answers his critics with a two-part question. And as they are left mulling this over, he tells the parable of a father who sends his two sons, a willing son and an unwilling son, to work in the family vineyard.

It is a sharp contrast between being and doing.

The two sons remind me of that T-shirt I have joked about for years and that eventually I bought a few summers ago in the Plaka in Athens with these words:

‘To do is to be’ – Socrates

‘To be is to do’ – Plato

‘Do be do be do be do’ – Sinatra

The American publisher Cyrus Curtis (1850-1933) once said: ‘There are two kinds of people who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told, and those who can do nothing else.’

But the two sons illustrate a serious dilemma:

Those who respond negatively to what they are asked to do, may eventually do it … and recognise their initial wilfulness.

Those who say they are going to do something they are tasked with, but then refuse to follow-up, to deliver, to do, refuse to recognise their own wilfulness yet persist in their sinfulness.

How often have you responded to people because of their words rather than their deeds and found you have completely misjudged them?

The two sons are asked to go to work in the family vineyard.

One son says: ‘I will not.’ In a Mediterranean village culture, in which there is no such thing as personal privacy, this son’s reaction to his father shames the father publicly.

The other son says: ‘I go, sir.’ In public, he appears to be what a good son should be.

But the tables are turned when we learn that the son who mouths off actually goes to work in the vineyard, while the son who seems at first to be good and dutiful turns out to be disobedient.

So, those who say they are compliant and say they are doing the right thing have headed off to do things their own way, while claiming they are doing what God wants.

On the other hand, Christ tells all present that even prostitutes and tax collectors who appear to be disobedient might actually end up with a true place in the vineyard. In today’s context, who are the people I keep excluding from the kingdom yet are being called in by God?

Paradoxes aside, most of us are not like one son or the other … most of us are like both sons, and wrestle with their responses and their approaches throughout our lives.

Have you ever received an invitation to a party, a book launch, a wedding, with those four little letters at the end: ‘RSVP’?

Have you ever been one of those people who, anxious not to offend, sends back a reply saying yes, I’ll be there, and then … and then something else crops up, and I fail to turn up?

It has happened to me. I have been invited to parties and book launches, ignored the RSVP line in the bottom corner, and then, at the last moment, turned up. And, I have to confess, I have, at least one or twice, accepted … and not turned up.

On which evening do you think I was most appreciated, most welcomed?

An obvious answer, I think.

It is more forgivable to be socially awkward than to be wilfully rude.

When we strive with the demands of Christian living, with Christian discipleship, it is easy to be like one of these sons.

There are times when we may find it difficult to do what God is asking us to do. We wait, we think, we ponder, but eventually we answer that RSVP and seek to do God’s will.

We say ‘No’ countless times, and then realise how worthwhile it all is: labouring in the vineyard should be hard work, but it leads to a good harvest and good wine.

I have to be careful to distinguish between God’s will and my own will. When they coincide, there are countless blessings. But when they are in conflict, I need to beware of pretending that one is the other, that I am answering the Father’s call and doing his work, when in reality I am doing what I want to do myself, and telling others what I want rather than what God wants.

In the words of the Collect of the Day, we pray that we may all, each one of us, that we may ‘both perceive and know’ … but these two are not good enough on their own; instead, we pray that we may ‘both perceive and know what things’ we ‘ought to do’ … so that with God’s grace we actually do them.

Being and doing come together; we know what to do, and we do it.

In The Great Divorce, CS Lewis claims: ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done”.’

In the coming weeks, it may be a real challenge, but it is important that the church is heard and seen to be doing the right thing for the good of all. Our words and deeds must be consistent.

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

Doing and Being … advice on a T-shirt in the Plaka in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 21: 23-32 (NRSVA):

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29 He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

‘John came to you in the way of righteousness’ (Matthew 21: 32) … Saint John the Baptist in a fresco in a church in Piskopiano, near Iraklion in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Year A, Ordinary Time)

The Collect of the Day:

O Lord,
Hear the prayers of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect of the Word:

Grant, O merciful God,
that your people may have that mind that that was in Christ Jesus,
who emptied himself,
and took the form of a servant,
and in humility became obedient even to death.
For you have exalted him and bestowed on him
a name that is above every name, Jesus Christ, the Lord;
who lives and reigns with you in unity with the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of mercy,
through our sharing in this holy sacrament
you make us one body in Christ.
Fashion us in his likeness here on earth,
that we may share his glorious company in heaven,
where he lives and reigns now and for ever.


630, Blessed are the pure in heart (CD 36)
593, O Jesus, I have promised (CD 34)

An icon of Saint John the Baptist in a small church in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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.

‘Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink’ (Exodus 17: 6) water from the rocks at Ballybunion, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)