Sunday, 8 August 2021

A tale of a county surgeon,
a hesitant librarian and
the inspiring sculptor

Bellevue House on Mill Road, Ennis, Co Clare … once the home of the County Surgeon, now the headquarters of the County Library (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Bellevue House on Mill Road, Ennis, Co Clare, is a 230-year-old, three-bay two-storey house, now serving as the headquarters of Clare County Library. The house is interesting historically and architecturally, but is also interesting because of its modern sculptures by Rachel Joynt.

Bellevue House was built in 1780, and its architectural features include the timber sliding sash windows with brick dressings at the openings, and the timber panelled door flanked by pilasters with a moulded cornice and a fanlight with wrought-iron decorative detail above.

The low castellated coursed stone wall is a later addition to the site.

Ennis was the first town to adopt the 1855 Public Library (Ireland) Act at a public meeting on 16 October 1855. The Grand Jury provided the site of the old Convict Depot on Jail Street and a new library was designed by J Petty at a cost of £860.

However, the library project was later abandoned, and the building became the Town Hall and later part of the Old Ground Hotel. It was another 75 years before a Public Library Service in Clare was proposed once again in 1930.

Dermot Foley, then a 23-year-old working in the library in Ballsbridge Dublin, was recommended for the post of Librarian in 1931. At first, the council refused to appoint Foley and tried to excuse the delay to his appointment, saying he needed six months to improve his knowledge of the Irish language. But, under the threat of legal action from the Department of Local Government and the possible dissolution of the council, a special meeting of the council was called on 9 July 1931 and Foley took up his post two months later, on 2 September 1931.

When Foley arrived by train in Ennis, he headed to the Court House, where the County Secretary, MJ Carey, called him in and pointed to a sawn-off section of the Council Chamber, saying, ‘There’s your library.’ The walls were shelved to the ceiling, 12 ft high, there was no ladder and the one table was ‘acquired on loan, I was told, from the lunatic asylum.’

A few weeks later, at his first committee meeting, Foley received a parcel with a tin box with two prime 45 bullets and a note saying, ‘Get out of the country, you have a Clareman’s job.’

The County Library Headquarters soon moved from Ennis Courthouse, first to the Clubhouse at Club Bridge and then once again early in 1933 to No 7 Bindon Street. But space was limited, and a large number of books was stored in the District Court Room in the Courthouse.

The timber panelled door and the pilasters at Bellevue House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The headquarters made its final move on 1 July 1943 to existing Bellevue House on Mill Road. This house was built in 1780, and was the residence of the County Surgeon attached to the old County Infirmary, on the site of the present Mid-Western Health Board Clinic.

The adult lending library was housed in a portion of the ground floor and in the early 1950s the hallway was used as a children’s library. The first floor provided a residence for the County Librarian as a residence.

The first custom-built library in Co Clare was opened in Ennis in 1975 and became a landmark in branch library development in Ireland. When the De Valera Library opened, all branch activity ceased at Library Headquarters.

The refurbished Library Headquarters was officially opened in 1994. The library project involved the renovation of Bellevue House, transforming a late 18th century building into a modern library headquarters, while retaining the best of the original features. The official opening was 63 years to the day after Clare’s first County Librarian, Dermot Foley, took up duty.

The building houses acquisitions, cataloguing and departments, schools and part-time branches department, an exhibitions room, a conference and training room, an administrative office and the office of the County Arts Officer. The stock room at the rear can hold 30,000 volumes.

‘A Spine Path’ (1994) is the work of the sculptor Rachel Joynt (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

An artistic feature consists of a green limestone slab incorporating a bronze design representing the spine of an old book. To the side, a bronze book is fastened to the exterior stone seat.

‘A Spine Path’ (1994) is the work of the sculptor Rachel Joynt, who has created some prominent Irish public art.

Rachel Joynt was born in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, in 1966, and she graduated from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin in 1989 with a degree in sculpture.

Her commissions include ‘People’s Island’ (1988), in which brass footprints and bird feet criss-cross a well-traversed pedestrian island near O’Connell Bridge, Dublin. She collaborated with Remco de Fouw in making ‘Perpetual Motion’ (1995), a large sphere with road markings on the Naas dual carriageway.

Her other installations include ‘Selene’ at the Project Art Centre (1993) and ‘Feed’ at the Temple Bar Galleries (1999). Her public artworks include ‘Mothership’ at Dun Laoghaire seafront (1999), ‘Starboard’ at the River Lagan, Belfast (2001), ‘Noah’s Egg’ at the Veterinary Building, UCD (2004), and ‘Love All,’ a bronze globe in Templeogue village, outside Templeogue Tennis Club (2007).

Rachel Joynt’s bronze book on the exterior stone seat (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Sunday intercessions on
8 August 2021, Trinity X

‘This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die’ (John 6: 50) … bread prepared on Saturday for the Sunday liturgy in Ouranoupoli, near Mount Athos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

‘Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice’ (Psalm 130: 1)

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

We pray for the people of Greece and Turkey,
suffering in devastating fires …
for all nations suffering because of
climate change, famine, poverty, violence, racism and oppression.

We pray for Ireland, north and south,
We give thanks for all who are responding
to the pandemic crisis …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6: 35):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may be faithful in the ministry of word and sacrament,
and in response to the spiritual and physical hunger of the world.

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 Church of South India,
and the Moderator, Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam,
Bishop of South Kerala.

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 The Kilmoremoy Union of parishes in the Diocese of Killala,
Archdeacon Stephen McWhirter, the Revd Karen Duignan,
and the people of Saint Anne’s Church, Easkey, Saint Michael’s Church, Ballina,
and Kilglass and Killanley (Castleconnor) churches.

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

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘Wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy’ (Psalm 130: 6):

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 prayer for those preparing for baptism, for marriage, and for ordination.

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

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

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

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

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for all who are broken-hearted,
including the Killick, Gilliard and Blennerhassett families …
We remember and give thanks for those who have died …
giving thanks for the lives of Gill Killick … Arthur Gilliard …
Yvonne Blennerhassett …
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 Tenth Sunday after Trinity, invites us to pray:

‘I wait for the Lord,
My soul waits, and in His word I hope’.
Loving God, grant us patience and forgiveness.
May we share our hope with the world.

Merciful Father …

‘I am the bread of life’ (John 6: 35-48) … a variety of bread on a market stall in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The bread of life and
the grieving heart
of a loving father

Bread in a shop window in Dingle, Co Kerry … the Gospel today continues the readings from the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in Saint John’s Gospel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 8 August 2021, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity X)

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Castletown Church.

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

Readings: II Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; John 6: 35, 41-51

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) speaks of the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ … her image at her convent church, the Convent of San José or Las Teresas, in Seville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Many people feel a deep experience of being driven into the ‘spiritual wilderness’ at different stages of their lives. During that time in the ‘spiritual wilderness,’ it is difficult to know that we are travelling through a place of pilgrimage rather than a place of abandonment, and that we are being refreshed and nourished there by God.

Two of the great Carmelite spiritual writers in Spain, Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) and Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591), write about the ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’

One of the themes running through today’s readings is the feeling of abandonment and exile, and how in the very moment we feel most distanced from God we find we are fed and nourished by him and are in his very presence.

David and Absalom feel abandoned by each other, father and son. Yet David shows in the most appalling outcome to this rift that he has never lost his love for rebellious Absalom.

In Psalm 130, the psalmist cries ‘out of the depths’ to God, asking God to ‘hear my voice,’ and realises that God’s love is steadfast and everlasting.

In the Epistle reading for today (Ephesians 4: 25 to 5: 2), Saint Paul reminds us – no matter how we feel – to put away all anger and bitterness and to be kind to one another.

In the Gospel reading, the crowds who follow Christ into the wilderness, are fed, and then find that he is the ‘Bread of Life.’ They are being told that when we feel abandoned by family, friends and neighbours, God has not abandoned us; when we feel alone and as if we are in desert places, God never abandons us.

One of the reasons many people say they are turned off the ‘Old Testament’ is the amount of violence they find in it.

People who seem to have no problems passively watching news reports of starvation, war and oppression without feeling the need to respond, have real problems when it comes to Bible stories of wars, murders and battles.

We have them all here this morning in the first reading (II Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33). It is a story of violence: father and son fighting each other after son has violated sister, mercenaries, pitched battles, slaughter and overkill – in those days a battle force of 20,000 amounted to weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Trying to find religious meaning in all of this is difficult with our modern approaches to issues of justice and peace.

So difficult that it is not surprising some people find it difficult to reconcile what they see as the ‘God of the Old Testament’ with the loving God that Jesus addresses not just as Father, but simply and directly as Abba.

Yet, as we wade through the horror and gore, we catch a glimpse of the love of God as a perfect father.

David has never been a perfect father, a perfect husband, never a perfect king. All these failings are seen in earlier stories in this book: David and Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah (II Samuel 11: 2-27), and then David’s failure to deal with Amnon’s violation of his own half-sister Tamar (II Samuel 13: 1-21).

In this story, David’s love for his first-born son and heir is great, but it prevents him from administering justice. Yet, we know, justice delayed is justice denied.

Frustrated by David’s inaction, his third but second surviving son, Absalom, takes the law into his own hands, and has Amnon killed. After time in exile, Absalom returns to the court of his father. But David’s refusal to see him for two years leads Absalom to hate his father. Absalom plans a coup d’état and marches on Jerusalem.

David escapes across the Jordan with his army and begins a military comeback. But David’s advisers keep the king away from any direct decision about what should happen to Absalom.

David orders his commanders to ‘deal gently’ with his rebellious son. Despite his rebellion, David still loves Absalom, perhaps hoping against hope at this late stage to save his life.

Absalom’s militia are no match for David’s army. It is a cataclysmic battle. In the midst of the slaughter of perhaps tens of thousands, we hear of the death of one individual, the wayward Absalom.

As he is riding through the forest, the handsome prince is caught by the ‘head,’ perhaps by his long hair, and is left dangling from the branches of a great oak tree (verse 9; see II Samuel 14: 25-26).

In his desperate plight, we are left hanging too, wondering what happens, for this morning’s reading hastens the pace as it skips over some verses (10-14).

In those missing verses, a man tells Joab of the plight of the dangling Absalom. But he leaves it to Joab to make the decision of whether to kill Absalom.

He is still hanging from the tree when he is killed. But the men who are brave enough to kill the prince when he is an easy target are not brave enough to tell David what they have done to his son. It is amazing how brave men can become so timorous.

So, they send a Cushite, an Ethiopian or Sudanese mercenary or slave (verse 21), to tell David the whole story, both the good news and the bad news, about the victory and about his son being slain (verses 31-32).

David is heartbroken, and his open grief makes him politically weak too. Instead of honouring the victors, he mourns the death of his son.

The cry of a grieving parent for the death of a son or daughter, at any age, is a cry that pierces the soul. And David’s grieving, despite all that has happened before, is a truly authentic passage of reportage in the Bible:

‘O my son Absalom, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’

These truly are the words of a distressed father’s love for his son, a parent’s love for the child. No matter how wayward, how rebellious or how violent that child may be, the love of a parent for a child is impossible to quench totally.

This reading was chosen by Archbishop John McDowell for a devotional reflection at the General Synod some years ago. And, as he read it, I could feel my heart breaking.

David’s heart-breaking grief in the first reading is echoed in the opening words of our Psalm, the Psalm known as De Profundis: ‘Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice’ (Psalm 130: 1).

Yet, in this Psalm, David’s cry for deliverance ends with a message of hope for all. God is attentive to our pleas, despite everything that has gone wrong. God forgives, God is merciful, God offers unfailing ‘love,’ freedom from grievous sin.

Christ understands the difficulties created by the relationship between a parent and child, and between a parent who is grieved by the bickering and battling between two children: think of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

God’s love for us surpasses the love of any father or mother for their children.

God’s bitter weeping and grieving when he sees our plight is expressed most perfectly in the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Of course, we can all cite exceptions to what I say. We know only too well there are abusive parents and there are dysfunctional families. But we also know that with God that there are no exceptions, that in Christ there is no abuse, and that Christ calls us into a relationship with his Father that is free of any dysfunction that we may have known in the past.

God’s grief for us is more perfect that David’s grief for Absalom. God does not refuse to meet us when we reach out to him. And the love of God the Father, offered to us through Christ his Son, knows no exceptions, knows no boundaries, when it comes to his children.

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

David and Absalom (Marc Chagall, 1956)

John 6: 35, 41-51 (NRSVA):

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42 They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ 43 Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

‘We are strengthened by these holy mysteries’ (Post Communion Prayer) … preparing bread for the Eucharist in the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The Collect of the Day:

Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions,
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect of the Word:

Grant, O Lord,
that we may see in you the fulfilment of all our need,
and may turn from every false satisfaction
to feed on the true and living bread
that you have given us in Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

O God, as we are strengthened by these holy mysteries,
so may our lives be a continual offering,
holy and acceptable in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘De Profundis’ (1943), the haunting Holocaust tour de force by Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), draws on Psalm 130: ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord’

Hymns:

425, Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts (CD 25)
422, In the quiet consecration (Castletown), CD 25
431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour (CD 26)

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:
71, Christ’s College, Cambridge

Inside the chapel in Christ’s College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is focussing this week on USPG’s links with the Abundant Life Programme (ALP), an initiative run by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) to support indigenous communities in the Caraga, Mindanao and Manila regions of the Philippines.

Later this morning I am presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, and leading Morning Prayer 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.

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect 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.

This week’s theme is seven college chapels in Cambridge. In this series, I have already visited the chapel of Sidney Sussex College (13 March 2021). My photographs this morning (8 August 2021) are of Christ’s College.

The entrance to the chapel in Christ’s College is in a quiet corner of First Court (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I preached in the Chapel in Christ’s College, Cambridge, and was a visiting lecturer in 2009 at the invitation of the then chaplain, the Revd Christopher Woods. I stayed there again in 2010 in advance of that year’s summer school at Sidney Sussex College, organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

The original college buildings in Christ’s College from the 15th and 16th centuries now forming part of First Court include the Chapel, the Master’s Lodge and the Great Gate tower.

Christ’s College was originally established in 1437 by William Byngham, who called his new college God’s House. The college moved to its present location in 1448 after Henry VI decided that he needed the original site for his new King’s College. Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII, who refounded the college in the early 16th century.

In 1505, God’s House was re-dedicated as Christ’s College under the patronage of Lady Margaret Beaufort. The Chapel of Christ’s College was consecrated in 1510 by the then Bishop of Ely, James Stanley, a stepson of Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Lady Margaret was a pious woman. It is said that even before the chapel was consecrated she heard Mass from a gallery now represented by a window in the south wall of the chapel, although the chapel was not formally consecrated until a year after her death.

In 2010, Christ’s College celebrated the 500th anniversary of the consecration of the chapel.

Lady Margaret Beaufort’s statue on the gatehouse at Christ’s College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 35, 41-51 (NRSVA):

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42 They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ 43 Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

Snow blankets the First Court and the entrance to the chapel at Christ’s College, Cambridge … John Milton and Charles Darwin were undergraduates (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (8 August 2021) invites us to pray:

‘I wait for the Lord,
My soul waits, and in His word I hope’.
Loving God, grant us patience and forgiveness.
May we share our hope with the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The gatehouse at Christ’s College, Cambridge was restored and repainted in a project that took four years to complete (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