09 October 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (134) 9 October 2023

Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford … Pugin’s only Romanesque church in Ireland (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 Denys, Bishop of Paris, and his Companions, Martyrs (ca 250) and Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, Philosopher, Scientist (1253).

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.

The West Door of Saint Michael’s Gorey … can be compared with Joseph Potter’s Romanesque door in Holy Cross Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford:

Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford, is Pugin’s only Romanesque-style church in Co Wexford. His designs were strongly influenced by Joseph Potter’s mixed Romanesque and Gothic style for Holy Cross Church, Lichfield, including Potter’s entrance door and his turret.

Saint Michael’s is one of the earliest of Pugin’s churches, and dates from 1839, when he was also working in Alton for the Earl of Shrewsbury and beginning his plans for Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, and Saint Giles’, his ‘perfect’ church in Cheadle.

When the church opened in 1843, it was claimed that Pugin’s design had been influenced by Dunbrody Abbey in south Co Wexford. But Saint Michael’s has many of the proportions of his cathedral in Birmingham, being as wide and almost as long.

Had his planned spire been built on the battlemented tower, Saint Michael’s would have acquired a height that balanced its horizontal proportions.

Phoebe Stanton notes that while Saint Michael’s is comparable in size to Saint Giles’, it does not share its richness: ‘The Gorey church is large and sober, astonishing not only for its Norman style but for the way in which it does and does not resemble the work Pugin was doing in England.’

The church has a seven-bay aisled and clerestoried nave, two-bay transepts and an apsidal chancel. This apse in the East End of the church is more of an English Romanesque feature that an Irish one – Irish examples typically had square east ends. Pugin’s only other Romanesque essays – Saint James in Reading, and the crypt of Saint Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham also had apsidal chancels.

John Woodburn once showed me around Saint Michael’s Church. Pugin’s rood screen, altar and reredos have been removed since the post-Vatican II liturgical changes, and the original stencilling is gone from the towers and walls. But if the church has lost some of its internal beauty, it retains its majesty.

This is Pugin’s first cruciform church, and Pugin used the windows in each transept and at the west end to make a subtle Trinitarian statement. He pays some interesting tributes to Irish church history, with his round tower and the mission cross at the west end.

The Mortuary Chapel has a later Harry Clarke window, but the former Baptistry is crumbling. It is in the shape of an octagon – a shape from the Lantern Tower that inspired Pugin after his visits to Ely Cathedral. But the font has been removed, and is in a neglected state outside a door on the north side of the church, while the tiles, in a pattern inspired by Pugin’s stencil work, are beginning to crumble on the window ledges.

The Romanesque West Door, with its round arch, is unique for a Pugin church in Ireland, but is similar to his door in Dudley, and both the door and the transepts remind me of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church on Upper John Street, Lichfield, designed by Joseph Potter, and where Pugin had designed the (now gone) rood screen. There are also echoes of the small door into the tower in Holy Cross and its spiral stairs.

Pugin’s clerk of works at Gorey was Richard Pierce, who had also worked with Pugin in Wexford, and who would later design the twin churches there.

The interior of Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 10: 25-36 (NRSVA):

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Inside Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford, facing west (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 yesterday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (9 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for Mozambique and all countries that were impacted by Cyclone Freddy. We pray for the rebuilding of homes and communities in the wake of the storm.

Pugin’s apsidal chancel at the East End of Saint Michael’s Church is more of an English Romanesque feature that an Irish one (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
increase in us your gift of faith
that, forsaking what lies behind
and reaching out to that which is before,
we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy;
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:

We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast:
for here we receive you,
here the memory of your passion is renewed,
here our minds are filled with grace,
and here a pledge of future glory is given,
when we shall feast at that table where you reign
with all your saints for ever.

The Mortuary Chapel has a later Harry Clarke window depicting the Resurrection (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

The coat-of-arms of the Esmonde baronets above the west door (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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