Monday, 30 November 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
2, Monday 30 November 2020

The shrine of Saint Andrew in the crypt in Saint Andrew’s Cathedral Amalfi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

Saint Andrew, Monday 30 November 2020:

Read Saint Matthew 4: 18-22:.

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Reflection:

Reflect on Jesus’s call to his first followers. What does it mean to follow him today? How do we help offer Jesus’s call to others?

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s evening reflection

The stall of the Prebendary of Tervin in Lichfield Cathedral … the parish church in Tarvin, Cheshire, is dedicated to Saint Andrew, and so the symbols include Saint Andrew’s Cross (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

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork,
celebrates its 150th birthday today

The West Front of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork … the cathedral was completed in 1879 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

I have visited Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, twice this year, in February and August, taking in time to enjoy it as a work of architecture and a work of art. Although the cathedral was not completed until 1879, it was consecrated on 30 November 1870, and today the cathedral is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its consecration.

I had visited the cathedral periodically in past, taking part in the installation of clergy (2013), attending ordinations (2009), preaching at the Good Friday Three Hours Devotion (2004), and delivering the annual Dr Webster Sermon (2000), sometimes staying at the Deanery as the guest of previous deans.

But, as the cathedral prepared for this year’s 150th anniversary celebrations, it was good to take time twice this year – once on my own and once as the guest of my friend the Dean of Cork, the Very Revd Nigel Dunne – to revisit the cathedral and to take in its beauty.

This year’s visits to Cork and Cobh provided opportunities to take some time in this Gothic Revival cathedral on the south banks of the River Lee.

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork … said to stand of the site of a monastery founded by Saint Barre in 606 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Although the cathedral was consecrated in 1870 and completed in 1879, there has been a place of worship on this site since the 7th century, when Saint Finbarr of Cork founded a monastery.

According to legend, Saint Fin Barre came from Gougane Barra, at the source of the River Lee, to the marshes of Cork in 606 and founded a monastery and a monastic school on the site of the present cathedral. He died in 623 and is said to be buried in the graveyard somewhere near the east end of the present cathedral.

An earlier cathedral survived until the 12th century, by when it had either fallen into disuse or was destroyed by the Anglo-Normans and replaced in the Middle Ages.

The mediaeval cathedral was badly damaged during the Siege of Cork in 1690, and after a fire only the steeple remained intact. The crumbing cathedral was demolished in 1735 and replaced that same year by a smaller building, which retained the earlier spire. The new cathedral was a newer building than both the Unitarian Church on Prince’s Street (1717) and Saint Anne’s Church, Shandon (1722-1726), which I also visited earlier this year.

However, the Georgian cathedral, was widely regarded as plain and featureless. The Dublin Builder described it as ‘a shabby apology for a cathedral which has long disgraced Cork.’

Inside Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, facing east … the first Anglican cathedral built in these islands since Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The Church of Ireland, then on the brink of disestablishment, agreed in 1862 that Cork needed a new cathedral. The old building was demolished in 1864-1865, and work began on a new cathedral, the first major project for the Victorian architect William Burges (1827-1881), then only 35.

Burges is among the greatest of the Victorian architects, standing within the tradition of the Gothic Revival. His works echo those of the Pre-Raphaelites and herald those of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

This was the first Anglican cathedral built in these islands since Christopher Wren built Saint Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London. The foundation stone was laid on 12 January 1865, the unfinished cathedral was consecrated on Saint Andrew’s Day, 30 November 1870, and the limestone spires were completed by in 1879.

Inside Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The project constantly ran over budget because of exuberance on the part of Burges. But the Bishop of Cork, John Gregg, was instrumental in sourcing additional money, including local merchants, including William Crawford of the Crawford brewing family and Francis Wise, a local distiller. The original price was set at £15,000, but the total cost came to well over £100,000. br />
The cathedral is mostly built from local stone from Little Island and Fermoy. The exterior is capped by three spires: two on the west front and one above where the transept crosses the nave.

Burges designed most of the cathedral, including the sculptures, stained glass windows, mosaics and furniture. He used earlier unrealised designs for the exterior, including those intended for the Crimea Memorial Church, Istanbul, Saint John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, and elevations for Lille Cathedral.

The spires were finally completed in 1879. When Burges died in Kensington on 20 April 1881, he was only 53. His gift to his new cathedral is the Resurrection Angel, made of copper covered with gold leaf, crowning the sanctuary roof at the east end.

A group of Apostles at the west façade of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The gilded copper ‘resurrection angel’ has become the cathedral’s most iconic feature locally, and is known to the people of Cork as the ‘goldie angel.’

Building, carving and decoration continued into the 20th century, including the marble panelling of the aisles, the installation of the reredos and side choir walls, and building the chapter house in 1915.

Burges insisted on his overarching control of the design of the architecture, statuary, stained glass and internal decorations, which gives the cathedral its unity of style. The shell of the building is mostly limestone, sourced from near Cork, with the interior walls formed from stone brought from Bath, red marble from Little Island, and purple-brown stone from Fermoy.

The sculptures total 1,260, including 32 gargoyles, each with different animal heads.

The tympanum of the cathedral draws on images in the Book of Revelation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Many of the external sculptures, including the gargoyles, were modelled by Thomas Nicholls. The entrances contain the figures of over a dozen biblical figures, capped by the tympanum.

The imagery of the tympanum is drawn from the Book of Revelation, with the divine on the upper register and mortals below. It shows an angel, accompanied by Saint John the Evangelist, measuring the Temple in Jerusalem, while beneath them the dead rise from their graves.

The designs for the west façade are based on mediaeval French iconography. The theme is the Last Judgement, with representations of the 12 Apostles bearing instruments of their martyrdom, the Resurrection of the Dead and the symbols of the Four Evangelists.

On each side of the west door are figures representing the wise and foolish virgins – the dejected foolish virgins holding their empty lamps – as they approach the bridegroom (Matthew 25: 1-13).

Five wise virgins … (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

… and five foolish virgins, on each side of the west door (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The three doors at the west front lead into the nave, with internal vaulting, arcade, triforium and clerestory, rising to a timber roof. Beyond the nave, the pulpit, choir, bishop’s throne and altar end in an ambulatory. The building is relatively short with a length of 180 ft, but the three spires allow the illusion of greater interior space.

The pulpit was completed in 1874, but not painted until 1935. Five stone relief figures represent the Four Evangelists and Saint Paul.

The pulpit was completed in 1874, but not painted until 1935 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The baptismal font is decorated with a carving of the head of Saint John the Baptist. Brass lettering reads, ‘We are buried with him by baptism into death.’

The brass lectern, a design Burges originally intended for Lille Cathedral, is decorated with the heads of Moses and David. A ‘Heroes Column’ or War Memorial lists over 400 men from the dioceses killed in battle during World War I. A processional cross, completed in 1974, is the work of the late Patrick Pye.

The decoration of the sanctuary ceiling was carried out in 1933-1935 to designs by Willliam Burges (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The elaborate colourful painting on the sanctuary ceiling was carried out in 1933-1935 to designs by Burges.

Burges designed the individual panels for each of the 74 stained-glass windows, and oversaw every stage of their production, although four windows remain incomplete.

There are two rose windows, at the west front and in the south transept The west window shows God the Creator resting on a rainbow and in the act of blessing, surrounded by eight compartments, each inspired by the scenes in the Book of Genesis, beginning with the creation of light, and ending with the birth of Eve and Adam naming the animals.

The Rose Window at the west front shows God the Creator and creations scenes inspired by the Book of Genesis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The rose window in the south transept rose, known as the ‘Heavenly Hierarchies,’ places Christ the King in the centre surrounded by angels, archangels and cherubim.

The organ was built in 1870 by William Hill & Sons.

A major restoration of the cathedral at the end of the 20th century cost £5 million and included reinstating and restoring the twin trumpets held by the resurrection angel that had been vandalised in 1999.

Today, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a living community of liturgy and prayer, enriched by a centuries-old choral tradition. The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross is the Right Revd Dr Paul Colton, the Dean of Cork is the Very Revd Nigel Dunne, and the Revd Ted Ardis is the Dean’s Vicar.

In normal times, outside the pandemic lockdowns, the Cathedral Eucharist is celebrated at 8 a.m. (said) and 11.15 (sung) on Sundays, Choral Evensong is at 15.30, and there is Morning Prayer and the mid-day Eucharist daily throughout the week. In those times, the cathedral is open to visitors daily.

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral celebrates the 150th anniversary of its consecration today (30 November 2020). Messages of congratulations can be sent to the dean and the cathedral saying ‘Happy Birthday’ with the hashtag #SFB150 .

The Resurrection Angel, the cathedral’s most iconic feature locally, was the gift of William Burges to his new cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Praying in Advent with USPG:
2, Monday 30 November 2020

Saint Andrew the First-Called … an icon in the chapel at Saint Columba’s House, Woking, the venue for a meeting of USPG Trustees last November (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust later next month.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (29 November 2020 to 5 December 2020) is ‘There is the Lamb of God.’ This week’s theme was introduced by the Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Today is Saint Andrew’s Day, and I expect to be involved tomorrow and on Wednesday in the General Synod of the Church of Ireland.

But I am pausing for a moment as I pray and reflect using the USPG Prayer Diary, the Collect of the Day, and this morning’s Gospel reading in the Lectionary of the Church of Ireland.

Monday 30 November 2020 (Saint Andrew’s Day):

Let us join with our Scottish brothers and sisters in giving thanks for the life and ministry of Saint Andrew.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew
that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ
and brought his brother with him:
Call us by your holy Word
and give us grace to follow without delay
and to tell the good news of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 4: 18-22 (NRSVA):

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s morning reflection

The cloister-like colonnade on the north side of the former Saint Andrew’s Church in Suffolk Street, Dublin (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

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
1, Sunday 29 November 2020

Lichfield Cathedral at night … I am using the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening in Advent (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I plan to use the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

Advent 1, Sunday 29 November:

Read: Saint Mark 13: 24-36.

Reflection:

The Advent message is: ‘stay awake’. Think about how we can use these next 26 days to be attuned to God using body, mind, and soul.

Continued tomorrow

Sunday intercessions on
29 November 2020,
Advent Sunday

‘Lo! he comes with clouds descending’ (Hymn 132) … sunset at the Rectory in Askeaton last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Let us pray:

‘O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand’ (Isaiah 64: 8):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the rulers and nations of the world,
so that they seek the values of your coming kingdom,
where your priorities are justice, mercy and peace.

We pray for all nations torn and divided by war and strife today,
and we pray for all peacemakers,
and all who defend democracy and human rights.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your words will not pass away (Mark 13: 31):

We pray that when you come,
even though we know not the day nor the hour (Mark 13: 22),
you may find your Church alert and awake (Mark 13: 32, 35).

We pray for the General Synod of the Church of Ireland,
which meets on-line this week.

In the Church of Ireland,
we give thanks for 30 years of women in ordained ministry,
we pray for the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross,
for Bishop Paul Colton,
and for the people and priests of the diocese.

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

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray this week
for growth, unity, and service in
the future united dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe.

We pray for our own parishes and people and for ourselves …

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Lusitanian Church in Portugal,
and the Right Revd Jorge Pina Cabral, Bishop of the Lusitanian Church.

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
show us the light of God’s countenance,
that we shall be saved (Psalm 80: 4, 8, 20):

We give thanks for new life …
We pray for those in need and those who seek healing …

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

Sylvia … Alan … Margaret … Lorraine …
Ajay… Ena … Eileen … Simon … Ralph … Adam …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …

We remember and give thanks those who have died …
may their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Mothers’ Union for use during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence:

Loving Lord,
your care and love are ever present in our lives.
We pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world
who live in situations of abuse and violence.

Give them hope in their hopelessness;
help them find strength in their weakness;
grant them freedom from their oppression;
transform their brokenness into wholeness;
and heal their wounds, visible and invisible.

Grant us all the courage and wisdom, grace and humility,
to act at all times with compassion and care.
And grant all who are harmed by abuse or coercion, peace through justice.
This we ask in Jesus name. Amen.

Merciful Father …

The Advent Wreath on the First Sunday of Advent (Purple Candle):

The prayers at the Advent Wreath on Advent Sunday helps us to continue our themes last Sunday [22 November 2020], which marked the Kingship of Christ and which we marked in these dioceses as Mission Sunday.

The first candle to light on the Advent Wreath on the First Sunday of Advent is the Purple Candle that recalls the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) suggests this prayer for lighting the first candle on the Advent Wreath:

O God of Abraham and Sarai,
whose promise was fulfilled in the birth of Isaac;
we pray for mothers in Tanzania whose hope for their unborn
children is tainted by the threat of preventable disease.
Bless those who work to overcome this threat
so that children can be born healthy and full of potential.


Lighting the first candle on the Advent Wreath in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, last year … the first purple candle recalls the Patriarchs and Matriarchs (Photograph: Barbara Comerford, 2019)

Waiting for God to come among
us in the darkness of winter

‘We are the clay, and you are our potter’ (Isaiah 64: 8) … clay in a broken pot on a window ledge in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 29 November 2020

The First Sunday of Advent (Advent I)


The Readings: Isaiah 64: 1-9; Psalm 80: 1-8, 18-20; I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 24-37.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘You have fed them with the bread of tears and, and given them tears to drink in full measure’ (Psalm 80: 5) … street art in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year, and we begin a new cycle of readings.

With the onset of winter, the sunsets are earlier each evening, and the sunrises are later each morning. So late that most mornings most of us are awake and having breakfast before the sunrise begins to dawn.

It is natural, as the year comes to an end, to think of final things and closing days. Earlier this month, we had All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day and Remembrance Sunday. At the end of November, at the beginning of Advent, we begin to think of the world as we know it giving way to the world as God wants it to be, to the Kingdom of God.

For many people in Ireland today, the future is full of uncertainties. It is only a few years since the government and economists were assuring us we had come out of the recession. Now, the pandemic and successive lockdowns have brought a new degree of financial insecurity, have stretched our health services to their very limits, have left many people isolated and showing symptoms of depression.

And we still have an incalculable number of homeless families – adults and children – living on our streets or in inadequate, cramped and unsuitable and unacceptable accommodation.

The major contributors to, causes of, poverty remain ill-health and inadequate access to housing, education and employment. Many ordinary people are living under mountainous burdens of debt, with uncertainty about paying bills, many families have no money left at the end of the month, leaving them unable to plan for the future and robbing them of hope.

For many families, large question marks now hang over their futures. They may feel they are being fed with the bread of tears and given the abundance of tears to drink referred to in the Psalm this morning (Psalm 80: 6), that they are to become the derision of their neighbours (Psalm 80: 7).

The word often used to describe these fears is apocalyptic – we talk of apocalyptic fears and apocalyptic visions. The first reading and the Gospel reading are classical apocalyptic passages in the Bible.

The first reading (Isaiah 64: 1-9) calls on God to come down and save his people. Yet they know their dependence on God:

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.


In Advent, are we seeking God, and looking for his coming among us?

The psalm (Psalm 80) is a call on God in majesty to come and save the people, asking him to save us with his steadfast love, to deliver us and to care for us.

When we call on God for God’s help, are we prepared to live as though God is already present among us?

The reading from Saint Mark’s Gospel (Mark 13: 24-37) is part of what is sometimes known as the ‘Little Apocalypse.’

For the first readers of this Gospel passage, perhaps in Alexandria, their world is falling apart. They have heard of – perhaps had even seen – the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps they have been thrown out of the synagogues, have been disowned by friends they once worshipped with, have been disowned perhaps even by their closest family members, and they now face discrimination, loss of social standing, and perhaps even loss of income.

The world as they know it is coming to an end. In words in the first reading, they saw their heaven and their earth torn apart (Isaiah 64: 1). And they, like us today, needed some reassurances of God’s love and we, like them, need some signs of hope.

But the tree bearing fruit is a sign that God promises new life. In darkness and in gloom, we can know that God’s summer is always new, there are always rays of hope and glimpses of love (Mark 13: 28).

And everywhere the messengers of God’s good news, the angels, appear in the Gospel, they almost always begin to speak with the words: ‘Be not afraid.’

These are the angel’s opening words to Zechariah in the Temple as he is about to be told of the imminent birth of John the Baptist (Matthew 1: 13).

These are the angel’s words to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1: 30).

These are the angels’ opening words to the shepherds on the hillside on the first Christmas night (Luke 2: 10).

These are the angel’s opening words to Joseph wondering whether he is facing a future of disdain and a family disaster (Matthew 1: 20).

In days of woe and in days of gloom, the Church must be a sign of hope, a sign of love, a sign that if even if things are not going to be get better for me and for others in my own life time, God’s plan is that they should be better (Mark 13: 27, 31).

In a world that needs hope, in a world that is short on love, then the Church, above all else, must be a sign of hope, must be a sign of love. If we cannot love one another in the Church, how can we expect to find signs of hope and love in the world?

Advent calls us again to be willing to be clay in the hands of God who is our Father and who is the potter (Isaiah 64: 8), so that we can be shaped into his vessels of hope and of love, so that we can be signs of the coming Kingdom, so that our hope and our love give others hope and love too in the dark days of our winters.

Advent calls on us to create new space and to reorder our priorities. To be still. To experience some quiet. To be reminded who we are – God’s beloved children.

What would you do if the world were to end tomorrow? You do not need to wait. You can do those things now.

Finish the work you started. Be reconciled to those who need you. Be faithful to the people and tasks around you. Undertake some small and wonderful and great endeavour. Be a sign of hope. But most of all – love the ones you want to and ought to love.

Why not? For Christ has come, Christ is coming, and Christ will come again, in the name 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.

If the world was going to end tomorrow, would you plant a tree? … old olive trees in an olive grove in Loutra in the hills above Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 13: 24-37 (NRSVA):

24 [Jesus said:] ‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 ‘Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

‘Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light’ … sunset and winter lights in Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Violet (Advent, Year B).

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Preface:

Salvation is your gift
through the coming of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and by him you will make all things new
when he returns in glory to judge the world:

The Post Communion Prayer:

God our deliverer,
Awaken our hearts
to prepare the way for the advent of your Son,
that, with minds purified by the grace of his coming,
we may serve you faithfully all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

‘Lo! he comes with clouds descending’ (Hymn 132) … sunset at ‘World’s End’ in Castleconnell, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

119, Come, thou long-expected Jesus (CD 8)
132, Lo! he comes with clouds descending (CD 8)

‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near (Mark 13: 28-29) … figs and leaves on a fig tree in Córdoba (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.



Praying in Advent with USPG:
1, Sunday 29 November 2020

‘There is the Lamb of God’ … a detail in a window in Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I plan to use the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust later next month.

Today (29 November 2020) is Advent Sunday, marking the beginning of the Church Year, and the beginning of our preparations for Christmas this year and the coming of Christ.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (29 November 2020 to 5 December 2020) is ‘There is the Lamb of God.’

Introducing this week’s theme, the Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, writes:

‘There is the Lamb of God!’ Those were the words of John the Baptist as Jesus passed by, words that resonated with one of those with John: a man called Andrew. He and another followed Jesus … and I could claim that the rest is history.

But now imagine for just for a moment that Andrew, having heard those words, decided to stay where he was; to remain safe in the company of John, prepared to listen to powerful words of mission but unable to do anything with them. There would have been no meeting of Jesus and Simon Peter, no introductions of the Greeks to Jesus, a different version of the feeding of the five thousand. There would be no patron saint of Russia or of my own dear Scotland. Many things would be different and people may never have experienced faith without the witness of Andrew.

Sometimes it feels safer and more comfortable to sit and listen, to be part of the crowd. All I can say is thank God that Andrew decided to get up and follow.

So today, let us pray for those called to mission and the walk they courageously take.

Sunday 29 November (First Sunday of Advent and the Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church):

Almighty God, thank you for raising people
to take your Good News to the ends of the earth.
We give you praise
for their devotion and dedication.

Continued tomorrow

With Bishop Mark Strange at a conference in Edinburgh in 2012

Saturday, 28 November 2020

The mediaeval church and
graveyard at Morgans,
west of Askeaton

The medieval church site at Morgans North is about 3 or 4 km west of Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Morgans North and Morgans South are paired townlands about 3 or 4 km west of Askeaton, on both sides of the main road to Foynes. Some of the families living there seem to have been rehoused from Aughinish Island when the bauxite refinery was built there.

Two us walked from Askeaton to Morgans on Friday afternoon (27 November 2020) in search of the old church ruins associated with a mediaeval parish and legends of a monk-saint said to have been a contemporary of Saint Patrick and with a local man who died on board the Titanic.

The church at Morgans North or Dysert is said to have been built by two sisters whose names are forgotten (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Today, the church ruins stand in the middle of graveyard known as Mount Pleasant. The name Morgans may be derived from the Irish Muingeadain, meaning a ‘maritime spot.’ However, local lore tells of a monk named Muirdeabhair the Wise of Disert, who built his hut and oratory beside a spring that had been blessed by Saint Patrick and where Saint Patrick baptised.

This legend identifies the monk with ‘Muirdeabhair the Wise of Diseart’ or ‘Muirdeabhra in Ṹi Conaill Gabhra,’ named in the Martyrology of Donegal. The Feilire or Calendar of Aengus refers to him as a ‘Synod diadera.’

Ṹi Conaill Gabhra was an ancient petty kingdom in what is now West Limerick, including the modern baronies of Upper and Lower Connelloe, Shanid and Glenquin.

The Irish word Disert indicates a lonely or uninhabited area. Deisert Muirdeabhra is said to refer to the lonely uninhabited area of Muirdeabhair.

A variation of Muirdeabhair is said to be Murigeadán, and so, it is said, the neighbouring twin townlands of Muirgeadán Thuaidh and Muirgeadán Theas are known today as Morgans North and Morgans South. The feast day of Saint Muirdeabhair or Saint Morgan was on 3 November.

Inside the ruins of the mediaeval church at Morgans North (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The ruins of Morgans or Dysert church are within the old churchyard or cemetery now known as Mount Pleasant. The name Mount Pleasant was brought by the Sands family from Newtownsands or Moyvane, near Tarbert, Co Kerry, to Morgans and applied to a hillock at the back of their home, where the Keane family live today.

The church and graveyard in the townland of Morgans North are opposite the Gouldings Fertiliser plant in Morgans South. The site is in a level pasture, about 50 metres north of the public road, and we reached it across a pathway that crosses the edge of a field.

The church ruins stand in the middle of an elliptical, almost rectangular, site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

This is an elliptical, almost rectangular, site, measing about 60 metres from east to west and about 45 metres from north to south, with a rounded west end, and enclosed by low stone wall. In the north-west section of the site is the ruin of the late medieval parish church of Morgans or Dysert.

Another local legend says the church was built in the 15th century by two sisters, although their names are not remembered.

In later times, the Franciscans of Askeaton Abbey are said to have ministered to the parish and church in Morgans.

In post-Reformation times, Morgans was a parish within the Askeaton parish, and the Rectors and Vicars of Askeaton were also appointed to Morgans, along with the neighbouring parishes of Toomdeely and Lismakeera.

The Sands family vault against the east end of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A family burial vault for the Sands family has been built against outside face of east wall, at the north end.

The graveyard has been cleared of overgrowth and most of the graves dates from the 19th and early 20th century, with some more recent burials. Some of the families are from Aughinish Island, others are from Askeaton, and some are from as far away as Foynes.

I could not find the earliest headstones, said to date from 1785, in memory of a W Casey, aged 46, and from 1817. Another, earlier grave, associated with the Dundon family, dates from 1824, and the lettering has been reworked, but it shows earlier influences, including an image of the Crucifixion, and symbols that include the 30 pieces of silver, a scourge, a cockerel, pliers, and a ladder for the deposition.

The Dundon grave with symbols of the Crucifixion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A Walsh family grave that seems to be crowned by an obelisk is inscribed:

Beneath this Irish cross
erected to
commemorate her many virtues
by her loving husband
Michael Walsh of Foynes
lie the remains of Mary
who for over 20 years was
his devoted and fond wife
She left a large young family
who have great reason to mourn
the loss of her motherly care
She was generous kind
and charitable to all
Died Sep[temb]er 30th 1872 aged 38 y[ea]rs
May her soul rest in peace.

I was confused until I looked at the base of the gravestone and found shattered fragments of the former cross scatted in the grass.

The Walsh family grave looks like an obelisk but was original crowned with a Celtic cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Another grave, near the boundary wall, recalls Pat Reilly from Toomdeely who ‘was lost in Titanic 14th April 1912 aged 30 years.’

In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick, Mount Pleasant graveyard is close to the boundaries of the parishes of both Shanagolden, Robertstown and of Foynes and of Askeaton and Ballysteen.

In a corner of the former churchyard, a recently-erected enclosed altar seems to be still in use on occasions.

The ruins of the church at Morgans North are in a feld 50 metres north of the road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

In the days – and nights – before
the roof of the ‘Blue Hall’ blew in

The roofless ‘Blue Hall’ in Coolcappa, standing against the blue skies of winter in West Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

The ‘Blue Hall’ is in the middle of the countryside in Coolcappa in West Limerick, almost the same distance from Creeves, Rathkeale, and Kilcolman.

In its present state it may be looking ‘blue’ but its walls could hardly ever have been painted blue. And I wondered how it got its present name and why an early forerunner of nightclubs and discos was built in such an apparently remote location.

Tom Aherne, who writes a weekly local history feature in the Limerick Leader, describes this as one of the ‘Ballrooms of Romance’ that could be found all over Co Limerick from the 1930s to the 1950s. Its ‘catchment’ area stretched to Askeaton, five miles away, Ardagh, four miles away, and to Shanagolden and Coolcappa.

It was built as a venue for meetings and fundraising events after Fine Gael was formed in 1933. The then Editor of The Irish Times RM Smyllie, once described its predecessor, Cumann na nGaedheal, as a party ‘who one wished would be open to ideas, until one saw the kind of ideas they were open to.’

The links with Fine Gael and Eoin O’Duffy and his fascist ‘Blue Shirts’ gave the ‘Blue Hall’ its nick-name in the 1930s. ‘Due to its political connections,’ Tom Aherne told me, ‘Fianna Fail supporters would not be seen dead in it.’

In time, however, the image of the ‘Blue Hall’ changed. Its name was changed too, and by the 1940s, it was known as the Casino, O’Duffy was dead, people of all political backgrounds cycled from places miles around to enjoy summer evenings in the Casino at the crossroads near Coolcappa.

In reality, it was no more than a shed, measuring 90 ft by 50 ft, with a galvanised, half-round roof that was more suited for a hay barn or a farmyard shed. A gallery over the door provided the small place for visiting bands and musicians, who included John McKnight and his band, the Glenside Ceili Band, Darkie Devine, Austin Glorney, Eamon O’Shea and many others.

Romance blossomed to the tunes and words of ‘The Isle of Capri,’ ‘Roll along covered wagon,’ ‘Just a little love,’ ‘Play to me Gypsy,’ ‘South of the Border,’ ‘Goldmine in the Sky,’ ‘Buttons and Bows’ and ‘MacNamara’s Band.’

But emigration in 1950s and changing fashions combined to mark the beginning of the end for the ‘Blue Hall.’ The showbands emerged on the scene, large halls sprang up in big towns, bicycles gave way to cars, and the days of the dance halls were coming to a close.

In recent years, in the last roll of the dice for the Casino, the roof of the ‘Blue Hall’ blew in. Today it is exposed to the blue skies, with late night revelries there now no more than a distant memory for an older generation.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Why the liberty craved by ‘me’
can be sustained only by ‘us’

Patrick Comerford

One of the two prayerbooks that I regularly use for prayers and reflections on Friday evenings is the Authorised Prayer Book, edited by the former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks.

Jonathan Sacks and Archbishop Rowan Williams stand as the two great, towering, intellectual and philosophical minds in England during the last number of decades.

Lord Sacks died earlier this month (7 November 2020), and is a tribute to his international intellectual standing as a moral philosopher, with more than three dozen acclaimed books to his name, that he received a full-page obituary in last weekend’s edition of the Economist.

The obituary recalls how, for Lord Sacks, ‘Keeping Sabbath was an ideal way to achieve work-life balance.’ The Festivals and High Holy Days are reminders of a shared tradition and history, the ‘we’ not the ‘I’. ‘Above all, out of the suffering endured by Jews for centuries, Judaism had distilled hope. Every crisis gave birth to opportunity. The world could be changed not by force, but by ideas.’

In a reworking of the concept of tikkum olam, ‘Every man and woman had a duty to care for others, and thus to recreate the bonds that held society together. “I” had to give way to “we”. Out of great crises – climate change, coronavirus – that chance might come. Ideally, religion could drive this change.’

In his last book, he called for a shared morality: agreed norms of behaviour, mutual trust, altruism and a sense of ‘us-all-together’. The liberty craved by ‘me’ could be sustained only by ‘us’.

The Economist recalls how on a visit to Auschwitz, as Jonathan Sacks wept and asked, like so many others, where God had been in the Holocaust, he seemed to hear the answer: ‘I was in the words.’ The words were ‘You shall not murder.’ If human beings refused to listen to God, even He was helpless. But if much of the noise that humans made could be cancelled out, ‘they might hear more of what He was saying.’

Shabbat Shalom.

The bank in Askeaton
stands on the site of
the former courthouse

The Bank of Ireland in Askeaton … stands on the site of the courthouse in the Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

In seeking out and searching for the stories of the historical buildings in Askeaton, I have sometimes missed out on some of the more modern, recent buildings, which are of architectural interest and also stand on interesting historical sites.

The Square is the oldest part of this town outside the castle, the abbey or former Franciscan friary, and Saint Mary’s Church with the tower of the Knights Templar, dating back to the 13th century.

The Square was once the focus for commercial and social activities in the town that were focussed on the market and the courthouse, while the quays and the police station were nearby.

The Square leads directly into both the west end of Church Street and the built-up part of the Quay. This area includes many two-storey terraced buildings with rendered and painted fronts that date mainly from the mid-19th century.

These buildings have a mixture of commercial and residential use. The majority of them front directly onto the Square and the street and there is an interplay of narrow, enclosed bends in the street with the more open areas of the Square and the northern part of the Quay.

Looking towards the Square from the Quay … with the bank seen to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The bank building stands on the south side of the square, on the former site of the courthouse, on the west bank of the River Deel, where it flows beneath the ramparts of Askeaton Castle.

This is a four-bay, two-storey building, with the left-hand two bays breaking forward of the main building. The roof is hipped with corbelled eaves. The façade is smooth rendered and painted and has raised stucco quoins. The windows are one-over-one timber sashes.

The front door is flanked by fluted pilasters supporting a tympanum with cornice and blocking course.

This bank has been very well maintained to present an almost intact original aspect. The applied ornamentation reveals high quality craftsmanship that has retained a crisp intricacy and that greatly enhances the façade.

The bank retains important original features and materials, including its slate roof, sash windows and brick chimneystacks.

At the render surround at the entrance, fluted Doric style pilasters support the architrave with a bracketed stepped cornice and pediment detail over a square-headed multiple-pane overlight and a timber panelled door.

The more recent concrete ramp has metal railings leading up to the entrance.

In normal times, when there is no pandemic lockdown, the Square is a lively place on Friday mornings, with an open-air farmers’ market, stalls and open vans selling fresh fruit, farm produce, and an occasional bric-a-brac. As I sip a coffee there, the bank and River Deel provide a colourful backdrop and a reminder of busy days when these was once the venue too for court sittings.

The bank stands above the west bank of the River Deel in Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Thursday, 26 November 2020

A private chapel that
once served the priests
and presbytery in Kilcolman

The private chapel at the former presbytery in Kilcolman, Co Limerick, stood to the left of the main house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

I have been writing in recent days about two churches in Kilcolman parish in west Limerick: the mediaeval Saint Colman’s Church, which stood in Kilcolman from the 13th century until it was destroyed by a fire during the wars in 1641; and Saint Colman’s, the Gothic Revival church built across the street on a prominent site in the village in 1913.

If we count the chapel of ease that was built on the site of the present church in 1827, then this is a third church or chapel in Kilcolman.

But Kilcolman had yet another church or chapel from the 1860s until recent decades.

For about a century and a half, the ‘Old Presbytery’ was the home of the parish priests of Kilcolman and also hosted visiting clergy.

Some accounts says the house was built in 1862, others say it was built around 1880 for Father Michael Connery, with the help of a Board of Works loan, with an annual payment of £70 until the loan was paid off.

Father Connery was the Parish Priest of Kiloclman from 1878 until he died in June 1882.

Successive parish priests used a detached chapel beside the church to celebrate Mass on weekdays throughout the year.

These days, the parish priest of Kilcolman lives just down the road in a small bungalow and the ‘Old Presbytery’ is now a private house, the home of David McDonnell, his wife Rosanne, and their family.

The private chapel has since been linked to the main house, and it is now integrated into the accommodation of the house.

School days and prisoners
at Moneymohill are dim
and distant memories

The former school at Moneymohill near Ardagh, Co Limerick … first built as a police station over 200 years ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Moneymohill School is a sad-looking building, set back off a side-road near Ardagh in west Limerick, between Ardagh and Ballyhahill. Its windows are blocked up, it stands in a water-logged field and there is no obvious path leading up to the doors through which I imagine generations of children must have passed.

And yet, despite its sad and forlorn appearance, this old schoolhouse retains many of its original details, including the central breakfront and the diminishing windows.

The former dignity of this building is seen in features such as the limestone sills and the lunette window that provide an interesting contrast to the square-headed openings.

The building is set back from the road but stands out in the surrounding landscape.

The former schoolhouse is said to have been first built as a police station for the Royal Irish Constabulary ca 1810. However, the first organised police forces in Ireland did not come about until the Peace Preservation Act was passed in 1814.

The provincial constabularies were formed under the Irish Constabulary Act in 1822, with a police force in each province. This became the Irish Constabulary in 1836, and it did not become the Royal Irish Constabulary until 1867.

The five-bay two-storey building Moneymohill was built ca 1810. It has a central gabled breakfront at the front, facing south. There are pitched slate roofs with rendered chimneystacks, a timber eaves course and cast-iron rainwater goods.

There are square-headed window openings on the ground floor at the front, with tooled limestone sills, roughly dressed stone voussoirs and timber framed windows.

The square-headed openings on the first floor have tooled limestone sills.

The lunette window opening on the first floor of the breakfront has a tooled limestone sill and a timber framed window.

At the back of the building, the back hall was known as the ‘black hole’ where prisoners were kept.

Local tradition says the former school at Moneymohill was a soup kitchen during the Great Famine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Local tradition recalls that this building served as a soup kitchen during the Great Famine in the 1840s. It was transformed into a school sometime between 1860 and 1880.

On first sight, I wondered why a police station was needed in such a location in the 19th century, and how many children it could have served later on.

But if you look around carefully, there are many deserted and abandoned buildings in the immediate vicinity, including former family homes and shops.

At one time there was a thriving community in this part of West Limerick. But the conditions of the large dump at the Gortnadroma recycling and landfill site to the south eventually made life impossible for people in the area. After persistent demands, they finally closed their doors and were moved to better housing in other parts of west Limerick.

The grounds are waterlogged and overgrown, with an abandoned car and the remains of some farm machinery nearby. The memories of the former police station, soup kitchen and school are fading and becoming part of the dim and distant past.

Sunset at the former school at Moneymohill in west Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Sailing between Scylla
and Charybdis, trying
to set the right course

The National Library of Ireland ... the venue for ‘Scylla and Charybdis,’ the ninth episode in ‘Ulysses’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, was trying to sail through choppy waters in Dail yesterday afternoon (24 November 2020) as he spoke about Covid-19 and hinted at the government plans to lift or ease the pandemic lockdown.

He said, ‘As we all know, the Government faces difficult decisions in the week ahead, as we approach the end of six weeks of Level 5 restrictions. We sail between Scylla and Charybdis in trying to set the right course.’

‘In doing so, we know for certain that increased human interaction will result in more people getting infected thus increasing the chance of a third wave.’

Journalists discussing the debate on RTÉ’s ‘Drive Time’ later in the day feigned or boasted ignorance of the reference, and even seemed to delight in mispronouncing both Scylla and Charybdis; reports in The Irish Times today seem to miss the reference altogether.

There was a time when both media outlets had a number of staff journalists with at least a basic classical education, and a time when staff journalists in The Irish Times who did not understand the classical significance of the Tánaiste’s classical citation would at least have understood its place in the canon of Irish literature through James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Scylla and Charybdis are two immortal and irresistible monsters in Greek mythology and literature, and they beset the narrow waters navigated by Odysseus in his wanderings described in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII. They were later localised in the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and the tip of the Italian mainland.

Scylla was a supernatural female creature, with 12 feet and six heads on long snaky necks, each head having a triple row of sharklike teeth, while her loins were girdled by the heads of baying dogs. From her lair in a cave, she devoured whatever ventured within reach, including six of Odysseus’s companions.

Charybdis, who lurked under a fig tree a bowshot away on the opposite shore, drank down and belched forth the waters thrice a day and was fatal to shipping. Her character was most likely the personification of a whirlpool. The shipwrecked Odysseus barely escaped her clutches by clinging to a tree until the improvised raft that she swallowed floated to the surface again after many hours.

Later, Scylla was often rationalised in antiquity as a rock or reef.

‘Scylla and Charybdis,’ the ninth episode in Joyce’s Ulysses, is set in the National Library in Dublin, where Stephen Dedalus delivers his much-anticipated (though sparsely attended) lecture on Shakespeare and Hamlet.

As Dedalus delivers his lecture, he navigates between various pairs of powerful forces: the ideas of Aristotle and Plato, the impulses of youth and maturity, the relationship between the artist and art, and the disciplines of dogmatic scholasticism and spiritual mysticism.

It is like, one might say, being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Leo Varadkar has shown in the past how he can out-do Boris Johnson when it comes to quoting from the Classics.

As last night’s speech by Joe Biden shows once again, the Brexit negotiations are more complicated by the position of Northern Ireland. I imagine that for Spanish negotiators, there are similar concerns about the Rock of Gibraltar.

Perhaps when Leo Varadkar is next swapping classical quips with Boris Johnson, he may remind him of what it is to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

Gibraltar has been British since 1704 … but could Boris Johnson be caught between a rock and a hard place? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Colman’s Church,
Kilcolman: a 20th century
church with an earlier story

Saint Colman’s Church, Kilcoman, Co Limerick … built in 1913 on the site of an earlier chapel built in 1827 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Kilcolman is a small village in west Limerick, just off the R521, between Ardagh and Shanagolden. The name of Kilcolman is from Cill Cholmáin, ‘the church of Saint Colman,’ and the Catholic parish church, like the ruined mediaeval church on the opposite side of the street, is dedicated to Saint Colman of Templeshambo, Co Wexford.

Father Darby Egan built the first church on this site in Kilcolman as a chapel of ease in 1827. It was built on land donated to the parish by the local landlord, John FitzGibbon (1792-1851), 2nd Earl of Clare, who also donated £50 towards the building costs. Lord Clare also leased land in the townland of Knockboheen in the late 1830s for building a schoolhouse.

Lord Clare lived apart from his wife, the former Elizabeth Burrell, who lived on the Isle of Wight. Yet, it is interesting to note, that Lady Clare built a Catholic church at Ryde and a Priory at Carisbrooke. Lord Clare became Governor of Bombay later that year, and when he returned to Ireland, he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Co Limerick and Lord Lieutenant of Limerick.

Inside Saint Colman’s Church, designed by Brian Sheehy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The old chapel was demolished in 1911-1912, the site was lowered from its original elevation and a new church was built in Kilcolman while Father Jeremiah Murphy (1860-1936), originally from Dromcollogher, was the Parish Priest.

Bishop Edward O’Dwyer (1842-1917) of Limerick laid the foundation stone on 10 August 1913. The inscription on the foundation stone names Brian Sheehy as the architect and John Ryan & Sons as the builders.

Brian Sheehy (1870-1930) practised as an engineer and architect from 57 O’Connell Street (formerly George’s Street), Limerick. His other works in this area include the Parochial House, Askeaton (1911), also built by John Ryan.

Inside Saint Colman’s Church, facing towards the gallery and the liturgical west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

This is a cruciform, gable-fronted Gothic Revival church, built on a north-south axis instead of the traditional east-west liturgical axis. All the material for the church was brought by train to Ardagh and then transported to Kilcolman by horse and cart.

There are examples of fine craftsmanship in the details both outside and inside the church. The outside walls are enlivened by the rich textural effects of the rusticated concrete, which is an early example of the use of this material.

The walls were built with rock-faced cavity blocks. Each block was carefully handcrafted on the site by Mike Somers from Carrons. The blocks were made by placing a mould around them to give a rough textured design. The sand for these blocks came from Peter Culhane’s quarry.

The marble reredos above the original High Altar has been retained(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The church has a four-bay nave, with the chancel at the north end, two-bay single-storey extensions at the east and west sides, a lean-to at the north side and a cut limestone open work bellcote above the south front with a cast-iron cross finial. The rusticated concrete walls have buttresses at the nave and the south sides.

Inside, there are Y-tracery stained glass windows and quarry glazed coloured glass windows, a timber scissors truss ceiling, concrete corbels, a timber porch, timber panelled double-leaf doors. The wood was hand cut on the site by Jack Bresnihan and the Sheahan brothers from Foynes.

The marble reredos above the original High Altar has been retained despite recent renovations in line with Vatican II changes. The three-light stained-glass window above the main altar was given by the women of parish. The window depicts (from left to right) Saint Joseph, Christ as the Sacred Heart and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The wooden altar from the early 19th century church, once kept in the sacristy, was reinstated in the chancel when the church was celebrating its centenary in 2013.

The octagonal baptismal font, with an unusual interior double segmentation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The octagonal baptismal font, with an unusual interior double segmentation, is said to have come from the 1827 chapel of ease.

The limestone font inserted in the south-east interior wall dates from 1746. This is said in some accounts to have come from the mediaeval church across the road, but other accounts say it is the baptismal font from Dunmoylan Church. It is inscribed with the name Maurice Rahilly, perhaps Murtough Rahelly or Maurice Rahilly who was parish priest of Coolcappa and Kilcolman between 1704 and 1737.

A cast-iron spiral staircase beside the porch leads to the gallery above.

A cast-iron spiral staircase leads to the gallery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Two stained glass windows in the gallery above the porch at the south or liturgical west end of the church are by Franz Mayer and Company. They are in memory of a local teacher, George McNamara and depict Saint Colman and Saint Ita, both carrying episcopal or abbatial crosiers.

Saint Colman of Templeshambo is the patron saint who gives his name to the parish; Father Jeremiah Murphy, who inspired the building of this church, had revived the annual on 15 January pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Ita while he was parish priest of Killeedy and built a shrine on the site of her monastery.

The priests buried in the church grounds include: John K Fitzgerald (1912), John Casey (1966), William O’Connell (1971) and Michael Kelly (1988). Father Darby Egan, who built the first chapel of ease in Kilcolman in 1827, is buried in the church at Coolcappa.

The limestone font dating from 1746 is said to be the baptismal font from Dunmoylan Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Prominent clergy from this parish include Denis Hallinan (1849-1923), Bishop of Limerick (1918-1923), who was originally from the townland of Graigue and went to school in Kilcolman. He trained for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome and was ordained in 1874.

His first appointment was as a curate in Newcastlewest until 1886, when he was transferred to Saint Michael’s Church, Denmark Street. He went to Saint Mary’s in 1896, and returned to Newcastlewest as parish priest in 1898. He was appointed Bishop of Limerick in 1918.

As Bishop of Limerick, he dedicated the windows depicting Saint Colman and Saint Ita. When he died in 1923, two of his chalices were given as gifts to the parish of Coolcappa and Kilcolman and are still in use today.

The two stained glass windows by Mayer in the gallery depict Saint Colman and Saint Ita, both carrying episcopal or abbatial crosiers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)