28 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
71, Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick

The Church of Saint Columba and Saint Joseph in Glenstal Abbey … blessed and opened in 1956 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week is Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. My photographs this morning (28 April) are from Glenstal Abbey. I have been here for personal retreats and for meetings of clergy, and I was the keynote speaker at the Glenstal Ecumenical Conference 25 years ago in June 1996.

The Church of Saint Columba and Saint Joseph in Glenstal Abbey is dedicated to the patron saints of the abbey: Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, and Saint Columba (or Colmcille), one of the three patrons of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget.

Joseph and Columba are also the baptismal and monastic names of Blessed Columba Marmion, in whose memory Glenstal Abbey was founded in 1927.

When Glenstal became an independent Benedictine house in 1946, Father Bernard O’Dea was appointed the first Conventual Prior. With the monastic community, he initiated the plans for building the church in 1948, and a fundraising campaign began in America.

The first sod for the new church was turned on 28 May 1951, the foundation stone was laid on 14 October 1951, and the church was blessed and opened by Archbishop Jeremiah Kinnane of Cashel on 24 June 1956.

Father Sébastien Braun OSB, a monk of Maredsous in Belgium, conceived the initial design for the Romanesque-style church. John Thompson of Limerick was the executive architect, P Cullen & Co were the building contractors, and the project was overseen by Father Placid Murray.

The Connemara marble columns were installed in 1957-1958. The Stations of the Cross were designed by Brother Benedict Tutty OSB (1924-1996) and were erected in 1976. The distinctive coloured ceiling in the church dates from reordering carried out in 1979-1981, when Jeremy Williams was the architect.

The most recent reordering of the church was carried out in 2016, under the direction of the architect Seán Ó Laoire. A new confessional was installed in 2017.

Walking into the monastery church, the visitor is first struck by the High Altar and the raised choir and sanctuary area.

The High Altar was built in 2016 during the most recent reordering. The copper repoussé panel on the front of the altar was designed by Benedict Tutty and depicts the Lamb of the Apocalypse surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists. A copper panel on the back depicts the Transfiguration.

The enamel-on-copper Cross, with a bronze Corpus, was designed by Benedict Tutty for the first reordering of the church. The front depicts Christ surrounded by thrones, while on the back there is a rising sun surrounded by angels.

The choir stalls and ministerial chairs were designed by Jeremy Williams and made by Al O’Dea. The choir lectern and stools are the work of Pat Daly. The organ was built in 1981 by Kenneth Jones.

The High Altar and the raised choir and sanctuary area in the Church in Glenstal Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 12: 44-50 (NRSVA):

44 Then Jesus cried aloud: ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49 for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.’

The panel on High Altar designed by Benedict Tutty depicts the Lamb of the Apocalypse (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (28 April 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for nurses and midwives in Tanzania. May more midwives join the profession and may those working in the profession be provided with the necessary equipment.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The sculpted inscription of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate was designed by Cornelius O’Doherty (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

Father Sébastien Braun, a monk of Maredsous, designed the Romanesque-style church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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