Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Boyle’s Almshouses: 400 years
of social housing in Youghal

Boyle’s Almshouses on Main Street, Youghal, Co Cork … a 400-year-old example of social housing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I have been writing in recent days about the former Benedictine priory in Youghal, Co Cork, the former Franciscan Abbey or South Abbey, and the nuns who maintained the mediaeval lighthouse in Youghal.

When the monastic houses were dissolved at the Tudor Reformation, towns throughout Ireland and England lost not only the spiritual life of these foundations, but also the hospitals and hostels that cared for the sick and offered care and hospitality to pilgrims and travellers.

To meet this need in the decades that followed, many wealthy and powerful individuals founded charitable institutions. A surviving example of one of these foundations is Boyle’s Almshouses on the corner of Main Street and Church Street in Youghal, founded by Richard Boyle (1566-1643), 1st Earl of Cork or the ‘Great Earl of Cork.’

These almshouses are a short walk down Church Street from Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church. They were built in 1624 by Richard Boyle, who had become Lord Boyle, Baron of Youghal, in 1616, and Earl of Cork and Viscount Dungarvan in 1620.

The almshouses are said to stand on the site of an earlier town house that was the residence in Youghal of the Earls of Desmond. The were built of local old red sandstone, probably taken from the former Dominican friary or North Abbey in Youghal.

Boyle had the support of the Corporation or town council of Youghal, and initially the almshouses housed six old soldiers, ‘six old decayed soldiers or alms men’, who also received a pension of £5 a year each.

The first residents were probably retired soldiers engaged in the Desmond rebellion. Later, the houses were extended to accommodate poor widows too. Widows and widowers were normally kept apart by assigning them to different floors. In their days, these were an early example of social housing.

Four of the six almshouses face onto Main Street, and the remaining two facing onto Church Street. Although they were built four decades after the death of James I, they have been described as being ‘most convincingly Jacobean’ in their style of architecture.

A carved plaque on the Main Street façade displays Richard Boyle’s coat of arms (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Main Street or east façade presents a four-bay, three storey building, with a plain gable at the north end. The almshouses were originally gabled at the front, with heavy mullioned windows and thick hood mouldings above.

Some of the architectural details include six pointed arched doorways, the two mullioned windows on Church Street, and a carved plaque on the Main Street façade displaying Richard Boyle’s coat of arms.

These buildings have been described as the oldest surviving almshouses in Ireland, although they were built about 30 years after Sir Richard Shee’s almshouse in Kilkenny.

When a poll tax of two shillings was introduced in 1697, the residents of the almshouses were exempt. In later years, the residents were provided with fuel and an annual allowance from the Duke of Devonshire.

Two of the six almshouses face onto Church Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The almshouses retained their original form until the mid-19th century, when some of the houses were modified substantially. The flat elevation seen on Main Street today was created when a new roofline was put in, removing the original pointed gables. The building was stonewalled all round and the original interior was formed with two floors and timber partitions between the houses.

Bernard Powell, a local man who lived in one of the houses in recent years. He suffered from gigantism, and stood almost 7 ft tall. But the front door was little more than 5 ft high. Despite this obvious disadvantage, he continued to live in the almshouses until he died.

Under a proposal in 1976, the former almshouse were to become a library space. Only the façade of the almshouse was to be preserved, a new entrance was to be created, an interior garden would be created off a corridor on the way to the adult and reference sections of the library.

Instead, however, in recent years alterations and modifications were made to the buildings and they now accommodate senior citizens.

The original gables survive on the Church Street façade (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
94, Saint John’s Priory, Youghal

The site of the early 14th century Benedictine Priory of Saint John in Youghal, Co Cork, is now Priory Coffee Company (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is Benedictine (including Cistercian) foundations. My photographs this morning (31 August 2021) are from the former Saint John’s Priory in Youghal, Co Cork.

Portions of the Priory of Saint John still survive, including a moulded Gothic doorway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Portions of the early 14th century Benedictine Priory of Saint John can be found at 56 Main Street, in the centre of Youghal. The building is now Priory Coffee Company, an award-winning café in the town centre.

This Benedictine house in the centre of Youghal was founded ca 1350, but the Benedictine presence in Youghal dated back to 1185.

A maison dieu was founded for or by the Benedictines at Youghal in 1185, with an associated leper house on a hill outside the town. A maison dieu was often served as a hospital or hostel providing overnight accommodation for pilgrims.

The Benedictine presence in Youghal was more firmly established inside the walled town by 1306, with the foundation of a structure known as Saint John’s House on Main Street. The house appears to have been a small dependent cell of the Benedictine house at Bath Abbey and operated as a hospital-cell.

Saint John’s Priory was founded in 1350, as a subordinate of the Benedictine Priory of Saint John the Baptist in Waterford (1185) and as a ‘mortuary bequest’. Saint John’s in Waterford was a double monastery that also provided hospital care and it, in turn, was a dependency of Bath Abbey in England.

Saint John’s in Youghal served as a hospital, hostel or almshouse until the Dissolution of the Monasteries at the Tudor Reformation.

Small portions of the building still survive, including the east gable with a moulded pointed arch Gothic doorway that has a carved sandstone surround and trefoil motifs to the spandrels, roll mouldings and a timber battened door with strap hinges. Other interesting architectural details include the two-bay, two-storey, gable front, the rendered chimneystacks, and a carved sandstone lancet opening with open work tracery. The original piscina and aumbrey are said to survive inside.

The passageway leading from the doorway along the southside of the building is a later addition.

It is said Oliver Cromwell made the priory in Youghal his headquarters during the winter of 1649, and that he inspected his troops every morning from the priory.

After a period of neglect, a new gable was inserted in a central position in the structure in the late 18th or early 19th century.

An architectural and archaeological assessment of the building in 2000 identified how the building is laid out in four spaces: the main retail area fronting the street on the east, a kitchen to the west of the shop, a yard beyond, and a long, narrow corridor running along the south wall through the building from east to west, bounded by a poorly built rubble stone wall on the north.

All the spaces are confined within a single rectangular structure. The building was found to have four main phases of construction. The main core is of mediaeval date, and the lower courses of the north and west walls of the mediaeval building were found.

The Magazine was an urban tower house at the front of the property now at 54 North Main Street. It was built within the precinct of Saint John’s Priory, and archaeological studies show uncovered the foundations of an earlier tower and a late mediaeval fireplace.

This building too was supposedly occupied by Cromwell’s army during the winter of 1649-1650.

The Magazine was demolished in 1835 as part of reconstruction works and the realignment of the Main Street.

The former priory has gone through many changes over the years and is now home to the Priory Coffee Company – and, yes, Eggs Benedict are on the menu.

The Priory Coffee Company is an award-winning café in the centre of Youghal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 4: 31-37 (NRSVA):

31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’ 37 And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.

The Gothic doorway opens into a passageway that leads into the rest of the site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (31 August 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for the Lusophone Network, which represents and connects Portuguese-speaking members of the Anglican Communion. The network comprises 350,000 Portuguese-speaking Anglicans and Episcopalians across countries including Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique and Angola.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A plque recalls the original use of the building as a Benedictine priory (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

The Magazine at 54 North Main Street was built within the precincts of Saint John’s Priory and was demolished in 1835 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Monday, 30 August 2021

Lighthouses and lace … once
the lot of the nuns in Youghal

The former Presentation Convent and Chapel in Youghal, Co Cork … is this work of Ashlin architecture in danger of being lost? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Lighthouse-keeping and lace making seem o have been the lot of nuns in Youghal, Co Cork, for centuries.

The former Presentation Convent in Youghal was known for the word-famous Youghal Lace, once sought after by popes, queens, and all who valued exquisitely crafted garments without worrying about the price.

Wedding gowns and christening robes that were made of Youghal Lace would become family heirlooms.

The Convent Lace School was opened in 1852 by Mother Mary Ann Smith of the Presentation Convent and the world-famous Youghal Lace was made here.

The production of Youghal Lace grew out of the need to create employment in the area during the potato famine in the later 1840s.

When a piece of lace of Italian origin came into the hands of Mother Mary Ann Smith of the Presentation Convent in Youghal, she carefully unravelled the piece of lace, examined how it had been made, and then mastered the stitches.

Mother Mary Ann Smith then taught what she had learned to children in the convent who had shown an aptitude for needlework. This lace is made entirely by the needle, and the thread used is of very fine cotton.

The Convent Lace School opened in 1852 and flourished. In 1863 A shawl of Youghal Lace was presented in 1852 to the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexander, when she married the future King Edward VII. It was the first of many presentations of Youghal Lace to the British royal family.

Youghal Lace was awarded several medals at in prestigious international exhibitions, including the Vatican Exhibition (1888), the Chicago World’s Fair (1893), the RDS, and the Exhibition of British Lace, London (1906).

The convent closed in the early 1990s, and the nuns’ coffins were reburied in the North Abbey Cemetery. A statue of the Virgin Mary once stood on a plinth on the Bell Tower overlooking the grounds and the nuns’ graveyard. The empty plinth can still be seen in the bell tower.

The building was refurbished and adapted as the Youghal International College, a Spanish second-level school, in 1992. But the building is closed and fenced off again, although it has been declared a National Monument.

Gothic decline at the former Presentation Convent in Youghal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The convent chapel designed by AWN Pugin’s son-in-law, the Cork-born architect George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921), as part of the convent complex, with the former convent to the north, sharing a decorative scheme and architectural style.

The chapel, in a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles, is typical of churches of its type and time, with features such as the round-headed windows, a bellcote, and steeply-pitched roofs and gables. The variety of materials used in building it add decorative emphasis to the façade and textural variety to the streetscape.

The gable-fronted chapel was built ca 1880, with slightly projecting gabled transepts, four-bay nave elevations, a gabled single-bay single-storey porch at the south side and a gabled bellcote and carved limestone pinnacles at the end.

The chapel is part of a group that forms an imposing and unusual feature on the streetscape of the town. The attached former convent, built at the same time, is a ten-bay, three-storey block with advanced end bays, a gable-fronted, single-bay, single-storey porch at the front elevation and a six-stage, square-profile tower at the north.

The other architectural features include sandstone chimneystacks, dressed limestone quoins, carved limestone bracketed eaves courses, the cross finial, and the round-headed windows.

I hope this important Ashlin chapel, now vacant on a prominent site, is not facing the same fate as the one that has befallen the former Chapel and Mercy Convent in Skibbereen in West Cork, abandoned to the elements after a fire some months ago, to fall into disrepair and decay. The convent and chapel in Skibbereen were designed in the 1860s by Pugin and Ashlin, and the neglected convent chapels in these two towns – one in East Cork, the other in West Cork – have been parts of architecturally significant ecclesiastical complexes.

The former Loreto Convent is being transformed into a modern apartment complex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Further south on the same road in Youghal, the former Loreto Convent campus has been on the market in recent years and is now being converted into apartments in a new development known as Ashton Court.

This site includes the former Loreto Convent and Secondary School, Marymount House, halls and outbuildings on about 4.2 acres of mature grounds on elevated site, with sea views over Youghal bay with its sandy beaches and panoramic views of the River Blackwater.

The former convent is an imposing, red-brick, two-storey over basement building. It was built ca 1850, and was originally known as Ashton Court. It later included a library, conservatory, and first-floor oratory. The former chapel had been converted into a community room.

The former school buildings were extended in mid-1970s, and refurbished and extended in 1991. The school closed in 2006, leaving the site to slowly fall into disrepair.

Naas-based Redbarn Construction Ltd bought the listed property as part of an immediate €6 million investment that also includes restoring a local cinema and an unfinished housing estate. The Loreto site plan envisages about 40 apartments in a gated development, some with access from Golf Links Road. The plans also envisage turning a small cottage close into a coffee shop and newsagents.

There has been a lighthouse overlooking the Blackwater estuary since the late 12th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The two former convents are immediately north of Youghal Lighthouse. It stands on the site of the first lighthouse in Youghal, built there over 800 years ago by Maurice FitzGerald (1194-1257). It is interesting, therefore, that this first lighthouse was maintained by the nuns of Saint Anne’s Convent for centuries.

That first lighthouse fell into disrepair after the nuns’ community was dissolved during the Tudor Reformation.

More than 30 ships were wrecked off the coast of Youghal in the 1820s alone. The merchants of Youghal demanded a new lighthouse be built on nearby Capel Island. But the authorities declined, and for over a decade the merchants and the local authorities fought over the ideal location for a new lighthouse.

Capel Island was then chosen, and building work started in the late 1840s. But local opinion changed, a new location was sought, and the half-built lighthouse on Capel Island was abandoned.

Finally, a new lighthouse opened in 1852 – in the same place where the nuns had run one from the 12th century. The half-built lighthouse on Capel Island can still be seen, and the entire island is now a bird sanctuary.

The last lighthouse attendant in Youghal moved out in 1996. Since then, the lighthouse has been fully automated and is now run from Dublin.

‘No Parking, Day or Night. Emergency Access Only’ … the gate in front of the former Presentation Convent Chapel in Youghal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
93, Bective Abbey, Co Meath

Bective Abbey was founded in 1147 as a daughter house of Mellifont Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is Benedictine (including Cistercian) foundations. My photographs this morning (30 August 2021) are from Bective Abbey, Co Meath.

The Abbot of Bective was a spiritual lord and sat in the mediaeval parliament (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The ruins of Bective Abbey are on the banks of the River Boyne in Co Meath.

Bective Abbey was founded by the King of Meath, Murchad O Maeil-Sheachlainn, in 1147 as a daughter house of Mellifont Abbey, Co Louth, which had been founded just five years earlier. This was the second Cistercian foundation in Ireland and the new abbey was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Unlike many Cistercian foundations that sought isolation in the wilderness, Bective Abbey was set on prime agricultural land, and quickly rose in importance. The Cistercians were one of the new monastic orders that emerged in the 12th century. Their economy was based on self-sufficiency and relied on arable agriculture.

The cereal cultivated at Bective Abbey, including oat, barley and wheat, fed the monks and any surplus food was sold in Ireland or sent to England and continental Europe. The location of the abbey on the banks of the Boyne and at the fording points on the roads to the north and south made sending these cereals to the port at Drogheda an efficient trade.

Hugh de Lacy, the Anglo-Norman Lord of Meath who built Trim Castle, was murdered in Durrow in 1195. The Abbey of Saint Thomas in Dublin and Mellifont Abbey wanted his body to be buried with them. Finally it was decided to bury his body at Bective Abbey and his head in Dublin.

The decision caused feuding between the monks of the two abbeys, and 10 years later in 1205 the Bishop of Meath and two other judges decreed that the head and body should be reunited and buried together in Dublin.

Bective Abbey was fortified in 1228 and used as a safe haven for the English and visitors from Europe.

It is possible to gauge the importance of the abbey because the Abbot of Bective was a spiritual lord and sat in the mediaeval parliament. The community at Bective Abbey were Anglo-Norman, and in 1386 men of Irish birth were effectively barred from entering the monastery.

The number of monks at Bective declined significantly in the 15th century and the abbey was substantially reduced in size. The south aisles of the church were demolished, the adjoining arcades were blocked off, the nave was truncated with the construction of a new west facade protected by a fortified tower, and a second tower was built at the south-west corner of the cloisters.

The two towers and the fortified alterations made Bective Abbey the most heavily fortified abbey in Ireland, and by the 16th century, the Cistercians of Bective Abbey had become wealthy from rents, tithes and donations.

The abbey was suppressed in 1536, the roof was removed in 1540, and almost 1,600 acres of abbey lands were confiscated. At the time of the dissolution, it was recorded that the estate of Bective contained 1,580 acres valued at £83 18s 8p.

The lands were first rented to Thomas Asgarde, an English civil servant, and bought by Andrew Wyse in 1552. Bective then passed to the Dillon family and later to the Bolton family. The complex was converted into a great mansion with the insertion of new fireplaces, chimneys and large stone windows. However, the abbey and the great mansion later fell into ruin.

Later, in 1766, Thomas Taylour (1724-1797), Lord Headfort, who had been MP for Kells, Co Meath, in 1747-1760, was given the title of Earl of Bective, of Bective Castle, in the County of Meath. However, the family lived not at Bective but at Headfort House, near Kells, and the family’s hunting lodge in Virginia, Co Cavan later became the Park Hotel.

Eventually, Bective Abbey was donated to the State in 1894.

The ruins are surrounded by an outer wall, and nothing remains of the earliest 12th century monastic buildings. The earliest stone work dates from 1274 and includes five bays of the south arcade.

The main part of the fortified abbey is built over three floors and includes cloisters and a tower giving it the appearance of a fortress rather than an abbey. The large defensive tower was built above the south range of the abbey in the 15th century.

But the best-preserved parts of the building are two surviving sections of the 15th century cloisters, with some beautiful arches that are still intact, including a pillar with the figure of mediaeval bishop or abbot carrying a crozier. Some sources say this is Saint Brendan, but it is difficult to understand why an old Irish saint would be given such prominence in an Anglo-Norman foundation. Perhaps he was the abbot responsible for building the cloisters.

Bective Abbey was a location in the filming of Mel Gibson movie Braveheart in 1995, and the cloisters were used for the scene with the Princess and her maid.

Today the ruins of the abbey are set in the middle of pasture on the banks of the River Boyne. In 2012, the Office of Public Works bought some of the land from a local farmer and converted it into a carpark, laying out a footpath leading to the abbey.

The best-preserved parts of the building are two surviving sections of the 15th century cloisters (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 4: 16-30 (NRSVA):

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum”.’ 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Bective Abbey was donated to the State in 1894 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (30 August 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil. May we support them in all they do to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in Brazil.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Some sources the figure on a of mediaeval bishop or abbot carrying a crozier is Saint Brendan … but he may be the abbot responsible for building the cloisters (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

The large defensive tower was built above the south range of the abbey in the 15th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Sunday intercessions on
29 August 2021, Trinity XIII

‘Why do your disciples … eat with defiled hands?’ (Mark 7: 5) … preparing to eat lunch at a restaurant in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

‘You love righteousness and hate iniquity’ (Psalm 45: 7)

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the nations of the world,
and for all who live in fear and hunger for mercy, peace and justice.

A prayer for the people of Afghanistan:

For those who are fleeing: sanctuary
For those who are staying: safety
For those who fighting: peace
For those whose hearts are breaking: comfort
For those who see no future: hope.

We pray too for the people of Haiti, Greece and Turkey.
We pray for Ireland, north and south …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand’ (Mark 7: 14):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may not worship in vain,
teaching human precepts as doctrines,
abandoning the commandment of God
in favour of human tradition.

We pray for our Bishop, Kenneth, as he prepares to retire,
we pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes,
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in our variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan,
and the Primate, Archbishop Justin Badi Arimi, Bishop Juba.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough
and Archbishop Michael Jackson.

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

In our community,
we pray for all who are working in the harvest and in the fields
we pray for all about to begin a new term in school, college, university …
we pray for Raylene, who has been appointed Diocesan Registrar …

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

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away’ (Song of Solomon 2: 13):

Holy Spirit, we pray for one another …

We pray for those we love and those who love us …
we pray for our families, friends and neighbours …
we pray for all on holidays …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …

We pray for those who have been baptised, married and ordained this month …

We pray for families where children, partners and those who are vulnerable
suffer violence, abuse or neglect …

We pray for those who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and those who seek healing …

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

Ruby … Ann … Daphne … Sylvia … Hilary …
Ajay … Adam … Pat … Trixie … Brian …

We remember all who grieve and mourn at this time …
all who are broken-hearted,
Myles ‘Miley’ Harty, who was buried in Askeaton this week,
his fiancée and his family …

We remember Linda, whose birthday is today …

May their memories be a blessing …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) in its Prayer Diary this morning, the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, invites us to pray:

Living God,
may we embrace new ways of
worship and praise.
Let us balance tradition and innovation,
placing you at the centre of all we do.

Merciful Father …

‘My tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe’ (Psalm 45: 1) … old letters in a collection of family papers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘There are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles’ (Mark 7: 4) … cups in the Avoca Café in Citywest, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Keeping my hands and face clean,
but still behaving like a hypocrite

Classical masks on sale near the Acropolis in Athens … the word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the Greek word for an actor who masked or hid his face (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 29 August 2021,

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII)

11 a.m.:
Parish Group Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

The Readings: Song of Solomon 2: 8-13; Psalm 45: 1-2, 6-9; Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

There is a link to the readings HERE

‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone’ (Song of Solomon 2: 10-11) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Are you still sanitising your hands every time you go into a shop, a church, an enclosed public space?

Are you still wearing a mask in those places?

Indeed, are you still wearing masks outdoors and on the street?

The arguments about sanitising our hands and wearing facemasks are a very different order of argument to the arguments in this morning’s Gospel reading about washing my hands before I prepare food, and about presenting that food with clean cups and plates and knives and forks.

It is so easy for me to look at the people I don’t like and then to find passages in the Bible that shore up, that support, that justify that prejudice, and make me feel good because I now feel a little more smug, a little more superior.

And that is precisely the moment when the Jesus of this morning’s Gospel reading steps in and upbraids me, and calls me a hypocrite.

In Greek, the word hypocrite (ὑποκριτής, hypokrités) was used for an actor who masked or hid his face. It came to mean someone who plays a part on stage. Because these people did not speak their own words, this label came to mean a pretender, what we call today a hypocrite.

When I speak words taken at random, or taken out of context in the Bible, I need to be careful I am not using them out of context, or to condemn people for a fault that is not necessarily theirs, something I project onto them.

Some time ago, I came across this piece of doggerel inside a church porch in Ardmore, Co Waterford:

I was shocked, confused bewildered
as I entered heaven’s door,
not by the beauty of it all,
nor the lights or its décor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
who made me sputter and gasp –
the thieves, the liars, the sinners,
the alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from sixth class
who swiped my lunch box twice.
Next to him was my old neighbour
who never said something nice.

Bob, who I always thought
would rot away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
looking oh so well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear your take.
How come these sinners get up here?
God must have made a mistake.

‘And why is everyone so quiet,
so sombre – give me a clue?’
‘Hush child,’ he said ‘they’re all in shock.
They weren’t expecting you.’

If I saw myself the way others see me, I would be less reluctant to open my mouth so often.

But the Church is full of people who continue to judge others – even other members of the Church – and justify their judgmentalism with passages of Scripture they quote out of context, sometimes even claiming passages of Scripture that simply do not exist.

And it’s not just about washing hands and pots and pans. If it was only that, it might be funny.

There are people who condemn people for their sexuality, they look down on people because of who they fall in love with or marry, they even claim to uphold Biblical standards of marriage.

But David, who we have been reading about at length in recent weeks, offered no Biblical standards of marriage. Solomon, who provides our first reading this morning, had 700 wives and 300 concubines – once again, hardly a Biblical standard of marriage.

I find it quite shocking, yet it seems inevitable, that many people in the Church of Ireland – not in these dioceses, as far as I know – use arguments about sexuality, bolstered with phrases such as ‘Biblical standards of marriage,’ to express prejudices about sexuality. Some even remain opposed to women being ordained priests and bishops.

This is using another voice, another set of words, Biblical quotations to express what is not in the Bible; the very origins of the word ‘hypocrite’ in the classical Greek and in this reading readily come to mind.

The Song of Songs, which we have been reading from this morning, is not afraid to affirm healthy sexuality, and in a creative and poetic way it compares the pleasure two lovers find in each other with the love of God for God’s people.

Here the voice of God is poetically represented by the voice of the shepherd; and the voice of the people is expressed by the woman. This woman is the voice of the people who love God and she also speaks back to the people on behalf of God: ‘My beloved speaks and says to me…’

In the Church, there can be no discrimination against people in ministry based on gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity or language, for God knows no such discrimination.

I too easily become a hypocrite when I use the words or behaviour of others to condemn them, without having the courage to say exactly where I stand.

Father Tikhon (Murtazov), who died some years ago [9 June 2018], was a much-loved Russian spiritual guide. A nun, Sister Olga (Schemanun of Snetogorsk Monastery), recalled how he welcomed everyone who came to visit him and who asked for his guidance and prayers.

Amazed at his kindness, she asked him one day: ‘Why don’t you refuse anyone? You bless whatever they ask of you.’

‘We’re in difficult times now,’ he said. ‘It’s better to sin by love than by strictness.’

We should worry as much about making careless wounding remarks as much as we would worry about preparing food unhygienically.

Can you imagine how much more positively people at large would view the churches if every parish and church put as much care into seeing that our children are not abused or infected with racism or discrimination or hate as much as we put into seeing we have sanitised our hands, are wearing colourful facemasks, seeing that the cups are clean for the tea and coffee after church on Sunday morning – or even as much as we attend to the cleanliness of the sacred vessels used for the Eucharist or Holy Communion?

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

Classical masks from the theatre in Athens on display in the Acropolis Museum … the word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the Greek word for an actor who masked or hid his face (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NRSVA):

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

‘There are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles’ (Mark 7: 4) … pots and pans in the kitchen in Bryce House on Garinish Island, Glengarriff, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Ordinary Time, Year B).

The Collect:

Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Collect of the Word:

Cleanse our consciences, O Lord,
and enlighten our hearts
through the daily presence of your Son Jesus Christ,
that when he comes in glory to be our judge
we may be found undefiled and acceptable in his sight;
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

God our creator,
you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven.
Let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage
until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ (Mark 7: 5) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

597, Take my life, and let it be (CD 34)
630, Blessed are the pure in heart (CD 36)

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 Ordinary Time 2021:
92, Mellifont Abbey, Co Louth

The ruins of Mellifont Abbey … the ruins of the largest and oldest Cistercian abbey in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII), and later this morning (29 August 2021) I am presiding and preaching at a Group Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is Benedictine (including Cistercian) foundations. Already in this series, I have visited a number of Benedictine and Cistercian churches and abbeys, including and Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (28 February and 1 March 2021), Ealing Abbey, London (27 April), and Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick (28 April). This week’s theme begins at Mellifont Abbey, near Drogheda, Co Louth.

The ruins of the octagonal 13th-century lavabo, where the monks washed their hands before praying and before eating (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mellifont Abbey, founded by Saint Malachy in 1142, was Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery, and its foundation marked the introduction of the European monastic way of life to Ireland.

These are the ruins of the largest and oldest Cistercian abbey in Ireland. The English name Mellifont is derived comes from the Latin Melli-fons, meaning ‘Font of Honey.’

Mellifont Abbey, on the banks of the River Mattock and 10 km north-west of Drogheda, was founded in 1142 at the suggestion of Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh.

Four years after Saint Malachy died, the Synod of Kells held some of its sittings in Mellifont in 1152, and was attended by bishops, kings and the papal legate, John Paparo.

By 1170, there were 100 monks and 300 lay brothers at Mellifont. The abbey was a model for other Cistercian abbeys in Ireland, and remained the principle abbey in Ireland until the Reformation and the suppression of the monasteries in 1539.

Little of the original abbey survives, but the most unusual feature in the octagonal lavabo from ca 1210, where the monks washed their hands before praying and before eating.

It is possible to trace out the original walls of the abbey church, and the other remains on the site include interesting colonnades, some Romanesque arches and the 14th-century Chapter House where the monks met.

After its dissolution of monastic houses in 1539, the abbey became a private manor house. Here the Treaty of Mellifont was signed in 1603 and here William of Orange had his headquarters in 1690 during the Battle of the Boyne.

The Moore family, who later became Earls of Drogheda, remained the owners of Mellifont until 1727.

New Mellifont Abbey was re-established at Collon, Co Louth, in 1938 by monks from Mount Melleray Abbey who bought Oriel Temple, the residence of Lord Massareene. The land was originally owned by the old Mellifont Abbey. New Mellifont became an abbey in 1945. The monks run a farm, a garden and a nursery and a garden centre that is open to the public. In the Benedictine tradition the abbey offers a guest house for those wishing to stay.

The monks of New Mellifont held celebrations at the old Mellifont Abbey in 1998, marking 900 years since the Cistercians were established in Ireland, the 850th anniversary of the death of Saint Malachy, and the 60th anniversary of the re-establishment of the community. New Mellifont hosted Brothers and Sisters from Cistercian Communities in Ireland, and some from Scotland and England in 2019, celebrating the 900th anniversary of the first Cistercian charter of charity.

Today, the abbey ruins at Mellifont are a National monument of Ireland, accessible to the public.

Mellifont Abbey, founded by Saint Malachy in 1142, was Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NRSVA):

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

The remains on the site include colonnades, Romanesque arches and the 14th-century Chapter House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 August 2021, Trinity XIII) invites us to pray:

Living God,
may we embrace new ways of
worship and praise.
Let us balance tradition and innovation,
placing You at the centre of all we do.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A surviving Romanesque arch in the ruins of Mellifont Abbey (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

After its dissolution, the abbey became a private manor house and the Moore family, later Earls of Drogheda, were the owners of Mellifont until 1727 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Charles Graves, Bishop
of Limerick, and his place
in the Celtic Revival

Gearóid Ó Cearúil is the author of a new biography, ‘Charles Graves agus an Athbheochan Cheilteach’

Patrick Comerford

It is always a delight to receive the gift of a new book. And it is always satisfying to find you are referenced in a new book.

Both pleasures were realised last week when the gift of a new book arrived at the Rectory in Askeaton.

Gearóid Ó Cearúil is the author of Charles Graves agus an Athbheochan Cheilteach, a new biography of Bishop Charles Graves, mathematician, academic, expert on Ogham stones, leading figure in the Celtic revival, and a towering figure in the Church of Ireland in the transformation brought about by disestablishment 150 years ago.

Charles Graves (1812-1899) was Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College Dublin (1843-1862), President of the Royal Irish Academy (1861-1866), Dean of the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle (1860-1866), Dean of Clonfert (1864-1866) and Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe (1866-1899).

Graves was, as the Victorians would say, well-connected: the Perceval part of his name indicated his close kinship to Spencer Perceval (1762-1812), the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated and whose family was from north Cork.

A useful genealogical chart on p 146 helped me work y way through a fascinating family tree of theologians, academics, clerics, judges, senior civil servants and poets that is a key to working through this book and understanding what made this man, beginning with the Revd James Graves (1710-1784), a former Vicar of Ballingarry and Castlerobert – and, as such, one of my predecessors.

They include William Perceval, Dean of Emly; Professor Robert Perceval; the Revd Charles Perceval, Rector; Professor James Drought, Regius Professor of Divinity in TCD, and his successor and son-in-law Richard Graves, who was also Dean of Ardagh; Canon Richard Hastings Graves of Mitchelstown; Thomas Graves, Dean of Ardfert; Richard Graves McDonnell, Governor of Hong Kong; James King, 5th Earl of Kingston; and the poet Robert Graves.

A larger chart might have included the Revd James William Graves, Vicar of Nantenan; the Revd John Graves, who also served in this group of parishes, and many, many more.

Gearóid Ó Cearúil (Gerald O’Carrroll) from Tralee, studied at UCC, and has taught in Limerick, Zimbabwe and Spain. He has written four books, mainly on Munster history, and this is his first book in Irish.

All academics delight in being cited in other books – in fact, if we admitted, we can be quite smug about – and I found my own citation on p 133.

The book is illustrated with a selection of images and photographs, many by the author, including Parknasilla, the extravagant country home Graves built himself near Kenmare and now a luxury hotel.

It is interesting how the unexpected longevity of a bishop could bring a diocese to the brink of bankruptcy. He lived into his late 80s, and in his biographical note on Graves, Leslie notes: ‘He lived to an age which far exceeded that on which his Commutation Capital had been calculated, so that the General Synod had from its other funds to help the Diocese by a large grant to maintain the Income of the future Bishop.’

● Gearóid Ó Cearúil is the author of Charles Graves agus an Athbheochan Cheilteach (Dublin: Coiscéim, 2021), 185 pp, €10.

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
91, The Round Church, Cambridge

The Round Church is a landmark building on Bridge Street in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is churches in Cambridge that are not college chapels. My photographs this morning (28 August 2021) are from The Round, on Bridge Street, Cambridge.

The East Window depicts the Risen Christ in Majesty (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the corner of Bridge Street and Round Church Street, is popularly known as the Round Church and is a landmark building in Cambridge.

This intriguing building is one of only four round churches that survive to this day in England.

The popular mythology that all mediaeval round churches belonged to the Knights Templar is without historical foundation. The Round Church was built in Cambridge ca 1130 by the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre.

The brothers of the fraternity were probably a group of Austin canons, and were given the land by Abbot Reinald of Ramsey between 1114 and 1130. The Austin Friars had their principal house in Cambridge at the nearby Hospital of Saint John, later the site of Saint John’s College, across the street from the Round Church.

They were influenced by the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a round church or Rotunda in Jerusalem, built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century on the site of Christ’s tomb and the Resurrection.

Most churches in Western Europe are cross-shaped in their floor plan, and in England there are only four other round churches like this one, all built after the First Crusade.

The church was built in the Norman or Romanesque style, with thick pillars and rounded arches. At first consisted of a round nave and an ambulatory, with a short chancel, probably in the shape of an apse.

Initially, the church was a wayfarers’ chapel serving travellers along the main Roman road – the Via Devana, now Bridge Street – just outside the town.

By the mid-13th century, the Round Church had become a parish church under the patronage of Barnwell Priory. Around this time, structural alterations were made to the church, with the rebuilding of the chancel and the addition of a north aisle, with the aisle shorter than the chancel.

During the 15th century, the Norman style windows in the nave were replaced by larger Gothic style windows. The carvings of angels in the roofs of the chancel and aisle were added. A heavy, polygonal gothic tower or bell-storey was built over the round nave in the 15th century.

In 1643-1644, during the Civil War, the Puritans destroyed many of the images in the church they regarded as ‘idolatrous.’ William Dowsing refers to the destruction of the church in his journal on 2 January 1644: ‘We break down 14 superstitious Pictures, divers Idolatrous Inscriptions, one of God the Father, one of Christ and of the Apostles.’

The weight of the massive the 15th century Gothic tower was too heavy, and it collapsed in the round ambulatory in 1841. The Cambridge Camden Society offered to repair the church and appointed Anthony Salvin to carry out the work.

Salvin replaced the bell-storey with a conical spire that he believed was similar to the original roof and faithful to the nave’s Norman origin. At the same time, the 15th-century Gothic windows were replaced by windows in Norman style, and a formerly-inserted gallery was removed, along with the external staircase leading to it.

To compensate for this, a new south aisle was added. It was found that the east wall of the chancel was unstable and this was replaced. Then the north aisle, by that time in poor condition, was also rebuilt, extending it to the same length as the chancel.

The original estimate for the cost of the restoration was £1,000 (£70,000 in today’s terms), with the parish paying £300. Finally, the restoration cost almost £4,000, with the parish providing only £50.

The Communion table, dating from 1843, was made by Joseph Wentworth. In 1899, a vestry was added to the north of the north aisle.

During World War II, the Victorian East Window was destroyed by a bomb in 1942. It was replaced by a modern window portraying the Risen Christ in Majesty, triumphant over death and suffering. The cross is depicted as a living tree with leaves that are for ‘the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22: 2).

The church is entered by a Norman west doorway with three orders of colonnettes, decorated with scalloped capitals and zigzags, and crenellations in the voussoirs.

The church is built in stone. Its plan consists of a circular nave surrounded by an ambulatory, a chancel with north and south aisles and a north vestry. Over the nave is an upper storey surmounted by a conical spire. To the north of the church is an octagonal bell-turret containing two bells.

Between the ambulatory and the nave are eight massive Norman columns and round arches. Each of the capitals of the columns is carved with a different design. Part of the vault of the ambulatory has dog-tooth ornamentation. In the ambulatory and nave are carved human heads dating from the 19th century. Above the nave is a triforium containing double Norman arches.

To the east are the chancel and aisles. In the chancel and the north aisle are carved angels dating from the 15th century that are attached to the corbels supporting the roof. Some of the angels are holding or playing musical instruments.

There are two bells in the bell-turret. One is dated 1663 and was cast by Robard Gurney; the other is a priest’s bell, possibly cast by J Sturdy of London between 1440 and 1458.

Most of the stained glass in the church was introduced in the 19th century restoration and was designed and made by Thomas Willement and William Wailes.

The vestry was added to the north of the north aisle in the 19th century and was extended in 1980. But by then the congregation in the Round Church was overflowing, and the building was too small for their numbers. In 1994, they moved down Bridge Street and Sidney Street to the much larger Church of Saint Andrew the Great, by Lion Yard, opposite the gate of Christ’s College.

The church is designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. Christian Heritage now manages the building, with an exhibition on the story of Cambridge and the impact of secularism on western culture. Behind the church is the Union Building, the red brick Victorian home of the university debating society.

The other surviving mediaeval round churches in England are the Temple Church in London, Little Maplestead in Essex, and Saint Sepulchre’s in Northampton.

The decorated Norman west door into the Round Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 25: 14-30 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.’

The Romanesque arches inside the Round Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Let us pray for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, as they rebuild their lives in the wake of the destruction caused by the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Round Church at night (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

Faith, Hope and Charity depicted in a window in the Round Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Friday, 27 August 2021

‘Preparing for a pleasure
doubles the enjoyment’

Plaza de Juda Levi in Córdoba recalls the Spanish Jewish doctor, poet and philosopher, Judah Halevi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

As I listen to the commentators, analysts and newly-proclaimed experts deliberate and pronounce on events in Kabul, I am amazed how many of them see Afghanistan as a ‘place out there,’ remote and distant, rather than a place that is within our cultural orbit – a place that was within the reach of Alexander the Great and his dynastic expansions, a place that was part of Persian classical civilisation, an important link on the Silk Road, and later the birthplace of Rumi, one of the great mystical poets in the Persian language.

The region is often unknown among western commentators.

To the north of Afghanistan, modern Kazakhstan, which has been independent since 1990, represents the Khazar territory that once extended as far as the borders of Afghanistan. In size, it is as large as Western Europe, and it is the world’s largest landlocked country.

At some time in the ninth century, the central Asian Khazar royalty and nobility converted collectively to Judaism, in part, it is argued, perhaps to deflect competing pressures from Arabs and Byzantines to accept either Islam or Christianity.

The extent of this Jewish kingdom is often debated, if not exaggerated. But an interesting work of mediaeval Jewish literature is Sefer HaKuzari, or The Book of the Khazars, written by the Spanish-born Jewish philosopher Judah HaLevi (1075-1141). This Sephardic writer practised in medicine and was well-versed in Arabic, Hebrew and philosophy.

In The Book of the Khazars, Judah HaLevi imagines a lengthy series of dialogues in which the king of the Khazars questions an Aristotelean philosopher and scholars of Christianity and Islam about their belief systems. After listening to the Christian and Muslim scholars deride Judaism despite acknowledging their faiths are its offspring, he decides to speak with a rabbi.

The bulk of the book consists of that dialogue, and for my reflections this Friday evening, I am thinking about some excerpts from The Book of the Khazars and the words attributed to that rabbi:

‘An individual who prays but for himself is like one who retires alone and into his house, refusing to assist his fellow citizens in the repair of their walls. His expenditure is as great as his risk. But he who joins the majority spends little, yet remains in safety, because one replaces the defects of the other. The city is in the best possible condition, all its inhabitants enjoying its prosperity with but little expenditure, which all share alike.’

‘The blessing of one prayer lasts until the time of the next, just as the strength derived from the morning meal lasts until supper.’

‘When we have nothing of our own, God blesses us for the sake of his love, for he is good.’

‘Preparing for a pleasure doubles the enjoyment. This advantage has he who recites a benediction with devotion.’

Shabbat Shalom

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
90, Saint Michael’s Church (Michaelhouse), Cambridge

Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church on Trinity Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is churches in Cambridge that are not college chapels. My photographs this morning (27 August 2021) are from Saint Michael’s Church (Michaelhouse), on Trinity Street, Cambridge.

Trinitarian truths expressed in a stained-glass window in Michaelhouse, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Michaelhouse is an interesting café located in Saint Michael’s Church in Trinity Street in the oldest part of Cambridge. It is just a few steps from Sidney Sussex College, around the corner at the end of Green Street. It stands opposite Gonville and Caius College and is close to Great Saint Mary’s Church, Trinity College and King’s College Chapel.

The café is set within the 14th century church of Saint Michael’s, a parish and collegiate church. But, while it is an award-winning café and restaurant, Michaelhouse remains a church – you could say it offers refreshment for both body and soul. Church services are held in the chancel several days a week, and the mediaeval Hervey de Stanton Chapel offers a peaceful space that is also a setting at times for concerts.

Michaelhouse recalls the name of one of the earliest Cambridge colleges, which flourished from 1324 until 1546, when it was merged with King’s Hall to form Trinity College. Michaelhouse was the second residential college in Cambridge, following Peterhouse (1284) – although King’s Hall was established in 1317, it did not acquire premises until it was re-founded by King Edward III in 1336.

Michaelhouse was founded by Hervey de Stanton, Edward II’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chief Justice, who had acquired the advowson (or right of presentation) to the parish of Saint Michael along with property on the High Street.

In May 1324, Edward II granted a royal charter to the new college for scholars in Holy Orders. Three months later, Bishop John Hotham of Ely granted his own charter. De Stanton suggested to the bishop that the master and fellows, who were all priests, could provide daily worship for the parish as they were using the church as their chapel. And so, the first Master of Michaelhouse, Walter de Buxton, was also Vicar of Saint Michael’s.

When de Stanton died on All Souls’ Day 1325, he was buried in the unfinished chancel.

The college continued to acquire more properties, including property between Saint Michael’s Lane (today’s Trinity Lane) and the river, an area now occupied by the south-west corner of the Great Court of Trinity College, New Court, Scholars’ Lawn and the Wren Library, property around Garret Hostel Lane leading down to the river, and a navigable stream.

Nothing much remains of the original Michaelhouse buildings, apart from Saint Michael’s Church. Until a chapel was completed at Gonville Hall in 1396, both Michaelhouse and Gonville shared the use of the two aisles, with Gonville using the north aisle and Michaelhouse the south.

John Fisher, who was Master of Michaelhouse in 1497-1501, was Chancellor of Cambridge University, and was instrumental in the foundation of Saint John’s College and Christ’s College. As Bishop of Rochester, Fisher took a conservative stance on the royal supremacy and the reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and was executed in 1535.

By the time of the dissolution of the monastic houses, Michaelhouse had an income greater than that of Westminster Abbey. The college was dissolved in 1546 and was merged with King’s Hall to form Trinity College, the largest and wealthiest college in Cambridge to this day.

Until the completion of Trinity College Chapel in 1565, Trinity used Saint Michael’s as its chapel. As the new chapel was being built, 36 scholars’ stalls from the former chapel of King’s Hall, some with carved misericords, were moved to Saint Michael’s, where they remain to this day.

Trinity College continued to hold the patronage of the living of Saint Michael’s and from the 16th to the 18th centuries, Trinity College fellows were chaplains of Saint Michael’s.

After a fire in 1849, the church was rebuilt by George Gilbert Scott and his son, George Gilbert Scott junior. Their work included a new stone porch, a new East Window, and a three-tiered new reredos.

The artists who worked with Scott included FR Leach, who also worked with GF Bodley on the ceiling and frescoes of All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane, the ceiling of Jesus College Chapel, the dining hall ceiling at Queens’ College, and at Saint Botolph’s Church on Trumpington Street. Leach painted the chancel ceiling and arches in Saint Michael’s to designs by Scott as a thank-offering, without accepting any payment. Parts of the north aisle had been painted previously to designs by Holman Hunt.

In time, the parish was too small to be sustainable, and it was finally united with Great Saint Mary’s Church, the university church, in 1908.

By the early 1990s, the church buildings were increasingly in need of significant repair, and an ambitious fundraising and building project began. The Michaelhouse Centre opened in 2002, and is a registered charity. Michaelhouse is now a key cultural and spiritual location in Cambridge, a unique community resource in the heart of the city, and a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Inside Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 25: 1-13 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9 But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

Trinity Street, Cambridge, with Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church on the left (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (27 August 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for young people in the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and across the Church in the Province of the West Indies. May they be respected and appreciated as part of the life of the church.

The Hervey de Stanton Chapel in Saint Michael’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

Archbishop John Colton, and an angel with the coat-of-arms of Armagh, on the side of Saint Michael’s Court in Trinity Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)