Saturday, 6 November 2021

Remembering some personal
saints in a time of remembrance

A time for gathering in memories … the barn on my grandmother's former farm (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my sermon on All Saints’ Sunday (30 October), I referred to the paucity of saints’ commemorations in the calendar of the Church of Ireland, particularly when we compare it to the calendar of the Church of England.

Just consider the commemorations in the Church of England, which include these in the first week or so in November alone:

1 November: All Saints’ Day
2 November: All Souls’ Day
4 November: Saints and Martyrs of the Anglican Communion
8 November: Saints and Martyrs of England and Wales

The Church of Ireland calendar also misses the opportunity to mark 6 November, traditionally the commemoration of All Saints of Ireland.

November is traditionally a month of remembrance: next Thursday, 11 November, is Remembrance Day, and this year Remembrance Sunday falls on 14 November.

As we were placing candles in two bowls filled with water in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, last Sunday to celebrate the saints and to remember those who are dead but who are still in our hearts and still loved, I remembered my ‘Gran Hallian’ … Mary Hallinan of Moonwee, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, who died on this day 60 years ago, 6 November 1961, and her husband Edmond Hallinan of Moonwee, who died on 8 March 1963.

As we remembered those from previous generation who had passed on the faith to us, I recalled my ‘Gran Hallian’ and recalled how, as I say on her lap as a small child, she had presented me with my first image of Christ – a print of Holman Hunt’s ‘Light of the World.’

It was an interesting image for an old woman to present to a small boy of Christ. Little did I realise then, I suppose, how this would later become a treasured memory as my adult faith developed and depended.

Mary and Ned Hallinan are buried near Cappoquin, with her sister, Bridget McCarthy who died in 1964, two of their sons, Willie Hallinan (died 1988) and Patrick Hallinan (died 2001), and one of their daughters, Bridie Hallinan (died 1995).

In a nearby grave are our neighbours in Moonwee, John and Mary Hackett, who died in 1964 and 1965, and their extended family.

On one of my recent ‘road trips,’ when the pandemic lockdowns were easing, I once again visited their grave, a few km south of Cappoquin, on the west bank of the River Blackwater opposite Richmond House, as the river flows south towards Villierstown and Dromana and on to the sea at Youghal.

I was invited to read Sunday’s first reading (Wisdom 3: 1-9) at Pat’s funeral in Cappoquin 20 years ago, in 2001.

The opening verse was the response to the psalm in the Lectionary on Sunday: ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, no torment will ever touch them.’

Childhood memories from Cappoquin remain alive in my mind’s eye (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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