10 October 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (135) 10 October 2023

The tower of Saint Michael’s Church is incorporated into the Synod Hall beside Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and the week began with the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVIII, 8 October 2023).

Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the lives and witness of Paulinus (644), Bishop of York and Missionary, and Thomas Traherne (1674), Poet and Spiritual Writer.

Later today, I have a post-stroke consultation with the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. But, before the day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer and reflection.

The Church recently celebrated Saint Michael and All Angels last month (29 September). So in my reflections each morning this week I am continuing the Michaelmas theme of the last two weeks in this way:

1, A reflection on a church named after Saint Michael or his depiction in Church Art;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Michael’s Church on High Street, Dublin, gave its name to one of three prebendal stalls in Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael’s Church, High Street, Dublin:

Saint Michael’s Church on High Street, Dublin, which gave its name to one of three prebendal stalls in Christ Church Cathedral, was originally erected by Donat, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1076. It was converted into a parish church by Archbishop Richard Talbot in 1417, and it was used by the mediaeval Guild of Shoemakers.

From 1541, the Rectors of Saint Michael’s were Prebendaries in Christ Church Cathedral and they were also the Dean’s Vicar in the cathedral from 1541 to 1604.

Saint Michael’s was rebuilt in 1676, but in 1807 the Visitation Book describes the church as being in ruins, and the parish services were being held in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral.

Thomas Taylor, founder of the Bective family, who worked with William Petty in compiling the Down Survey of Ireland, was buried there in 1682. It was also the burial-place of the Fielding family, ancestors to the Earls of Desmond. Ford Lambart, 5th Earl of Cavan, was buried there in 1772.

The rectors and prebendaries of Saint Michael’s in the 18th century included Canon Robert Law (1730-1789), whose son, the Revd Francis Law (1768-1807), married Belinda Isabella Comerford, daughter of Patrick Comerford of Summerville, Cork, and was the father of the Revd Patrick Comerford Law.

Saint Michael’s Church stood on High Street, at the corner of Christ Church Lane, immediately opposite the west end of the cathedral. The church was rebuilt yet again in 1815, when Dr Richard Graves (1763-1829), Dean of Ardagh and Regius Professor of Greek in Trinity College Dublin, was Prebendary of Saint Michael’s (1801-1823).

Rectors and prebendaries of Saint Michael’s in the 19th century included Canon Thomas Percival Magee (1797-1854), father-in-law and uncle of Archbishop William Magee of York; the hymn-writer Canon Thomas Bewley Monsell; and Canon William O’Neill, 1st Baron O'Neill (1813-1883), who was at Saint Michael’s from 1845 to 1859.

William O’Neill was born William Chichester, a younger son of Canon Arthur Chichester, Chancellor of Armagh. He changed his surname to O’Neill in 1855 when he succeeded to the large O’Neill estates in Co Antrim at the death of his distant cousin John O'Neill, 3rd Viscount O’Neill. The O’Neill title was revived in 1868 when he was made a peer as Baron O’Neill, of Shane’s Castle, Co Antrim.

Two of his descendants were prominent in politics in Northern Ireland. His grandson, Robert William Hugh O’Neill, was Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons and was given the title Baron Rathcavan. His great-grandson Terence O’Neill was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and became Baron O’Neill of the Maine in 1970.

The parish was one of the smallest in Dublin, covering just over 5 acres (20,000 sq m), and had 1,317 inhabitants in 1850.

When the Church of Ireland was disestablished, the rectors of Saint Michael’s ceased being prebendaries in the cathedral, although their title has been retained in the chapter. The last Rector of Saint Michael’s in Dublin was Canon Edward Seymour, who held office until 1872. He later became Precentor of Christ Church Cathedral.

When Christ Church Cathedral was being rebuilt in 1870-1878, Saint Michael’s Parish was amalgamated with Saint Audeon’s in 1872, the church was demolished, and the Synod Hall was built on the site.

The new Synod Hall was designed by George Edmund Street, the same architect who led the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral in the 1870s, and incorporated parts of the later church, including the church tower.

Street’s original design for the Synod Hall placed it to the south of the cathedral, but it was decided instead to situate it on the site of the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels. The new design connected the synod hall to the cathedral by an elevated passageway over Winetavern Street, and incorporates the tower of the earlier church. The building is in the pointed style, with simple buttresses, circular turrets and plate tracery, an element of stonemasonry that supports the glass in a Gothic window.

The former Synod Hall now houses the Dublinia Exhibition. Many of the interiors remain intact. The building contains a two-storey hall surrounded by many passages and lobbies that are now used as exhibition spaces. The Great Hall on the second floor is accessed by a contouring stone stairway. An imposing multi-arched wooden roof still exists on the upper level where the words ‘Aye’ and ‘Nae’ two double doors once facilitated synod voting.

Street’s stone bridge linking the former Saint Michael’s or Synod Hall with Christ Church Cathedral was completed in 1875. It has been compared with the earlier ‘Bridge of Sighs’ by Henry Hutchinson in Saint John’s College, Cambridge (1831), and the later ‘Bridge of Sighs’ by Sir Thomas Jackson at Hertford College, Oxford (1913-1914). Roger Stalley says Street’s bridge is his ‘final touch of genius’ in the restoration of the cathedral.

The present Prebendary of Saint Michael’s in the chapter of Christ Church Cathedral is Canon Mark Gardner.

The former Synod Hall now houses the Dublinia Exhibition (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 10: 38-42 (NRSVA):

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

When Saint Michael’s Church was in ruins in the 19th century, parish services were held in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘After the Storm.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (10 October 2023, World Mental Health) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for all those who are struggling with their mental health, and who are feeling lost or in despair. May they know how loved and cherished they are. Help us provide support and a listening ear.

Street’s bridge is regarded as his ‘final touch of genius’ in his restoration of Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

God our Saviour,
who sent Paulinus to preach and to baptize,
and so to build up your Church in this land:
grant that, inspired by his example,
we may tell all the world of your truth,
that with him we may receive the reward
you prepare for all your faithful servants;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal
the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share with Paulinus and all your saints
in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

An icon of the Archangel Michael by Canon Olive Donohoe in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (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

An icon of the Archangel Michael by Adrienne Lord in an exhibition in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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