26 March 2018

Reflections in Holy Week 2018 (1),
Monday, Saint Mary’s, Askeaton

The Risen Christ with Mary of Bethany (left) and Mary Magdalene (right) … a stained glass window in Saint Nicholas’s Church, Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Monday 26 March 2018, Monday in Holy Week:

8 p.m.: Evening Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.

Hymn: 217, All glory laud and honour

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

Throughout this week, as we journey together through Holy Week, we continue the gradual build-up from Palm Sunday, with services each evening in this group of parishes. We are here in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton this evening [26 March 2018], in Saint Brendan’s, Tarbert, tomorrow [27 March], then we journey on to Rathkeale on Wednesday, to Castletown for the Maundy Eucharist on Thursday evening, so that we can mark Good Friday prayerfully and appropriately here in Askeaton.

All this is to prepare us to celebrate the Resurrection, on Easter Eve in Rathkeale and Castletown on Saturday evening and in Askeaton and Tarbert on Easter Day.

During Holy Week, we have a series of readings from Saint John’s Gospel, in which Jesus has a very different set of encounters or exchanges each evening.

This evening, we are invited to be spectators, to be guests if you like, in the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus in Bethany. And there Jesus is the guest of honour, in the evening before Palm Sunday.

So, we have just taken a step back by one evening from our Gospel reading yesterday morning (Mark 11: 1-11; see John 12: 12-15).

Martha and Mary offer their home in Bethany as a place of welcome, peace and refuge for Jesus. His life is under threat, but still he has time, and they have time, for a meal together.

We had a hint of the Easter story already in this home when Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead.

Now we have a sign of Jesus impending death, when Mary anoints his feet with costly perfume.

But Judas fails to see the full picture, to understand the full scenario that is beginning to unfold.

Judas has a point, I suppose, from our point of view. There is so much need in the world, so much need around us, there is so much that is demanding of the best of our intentions.

But so often the best of my intentions remain just that, and I never do anything about them.

How often do we hear people say, ‘Charity begins at home,’ as a way of putting down people who genuinely want to do something about the injustices around us, even the injustices in the wider world?

Yet, so often, we suspect, that in their case charity does not even begin at home … it never even gets to the starting blocks.

For Mary, in our Gospel reading this evening, charity begins in her own home. But we get a hint that it is not going to end there. It has only started.

Judas is told the poor are always going to be with him … perhaps because charity does not even begin in his own home, never mind reaching out beyond that.

Mary’s action is loving and uninhibited, Mary’s gift is costly and beyond measure.

Love like that begins at home, and it goes on giving beyond the home, beyond horizons we never imagine.

Later this week, the disciples must have been reminded of Mary’s actions when Jesus insisted on washing their feet in a similar act of love and humility.

How would I feel if Jesus knelt in front of me and washed my feet?

Would I worry whether I had smelly socks, whether he would notice my bunions, chilblains and in-grown toenails, so concerned about what he thinks of me that I would never stop to think of what I think of him and what he thinks of others?

Or would I, like Mary, smell the sweet fragrance that fills a house that is filled with love.

Someone recently described prayer as ‘a time of living in the fragrance and the scent of God. It is gentle, light and lasts long. It comes off us; if we live in love, we spread love, and others know that something deep in us gives a fragrance to all of our life’.

Mary is extravagant and generous and is not inhibited by the attitude of others around her.

How much did she understand about Jesus’ impending death when none of the disciples saw it coming?

Mary does not sell the perfume, as Judas wants. Instead, she kept it and she would bring it the grave early on Easter morning with the intention of anointing the body of the dead Jesus.

Can people smell the fragrance of Christ from us?

Are we prepared to let charity begin at home? And then, in the joy of the Easter Resurrection, to allow it to be shared with the whole world?

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

John 12: 1-11

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Blessing:

Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:

Tomorrow: John 12: 20-36, The Greeks who come to see Jesus

Wednesday: John 13: 21-32, Judas plans to betray Jesus

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This Holy Week Reflection was prepared for Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, on 26 March 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

How Queen Victoria’s visit
to Killarney brought financial
ruin to the Herbert family

Muckross House stands on the small Muckross Peninsula, between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, two of the lakes of Killarney (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on images for full-screen resolution)

Patrick Comerford

I find on most weekends that by Sunday afternoon I am comfortably tired. I have come to recognise this as a positive sign of how I have worked and prepared for my liturgical and preaching commitments each week.

I sometimes say with humour that all I am fit for on a Sunday afternoon is to sit back and watch cricket or rugby. But, more often than not, this means a walk on a beach or by a riverbank or lakeshore.

This week, two of us drove from Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, to Killarney, Co Kerry, to see the Lakes of Killarney, Torc Waterfall, and the grounds of Muckross House, which is part of the Killarney National Park.

Muckross House stands on the small Muckross Peninsula, between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, two of the lakes of Killarney, 6 km south the town. The house is best known for its parkland setting beside the Lower Lake at Killarney, but it is also interesting architecturally and is, perhaps, the finest example of the Elizabethan Revival style in Co Kerry.

Muckross House, named as Muckross Abbey on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey in the 1840s, is said to be the fourth house built by successive generations of the Herbert family on lands granted in 1586 by Queen Elizabeth.

The present Muckross House was built in 1839-1843 for Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert (1815-1866), MP for Kerry (1847-1866), whose family had lived at Muckross since the early 18th century. Colonel Herbert, who was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, was Chief Secretary for Ireland (1857-1858). He built the house using the substantial dowry that came with his marriage in 1837 to the watercolour artist Mary Balfour (1817-1893).

The house was designed by the Scottish architect, William Burn (1789-1870), who was just beginning to establish himself as a country house architect. A talented architect, he was a pioneer of the Scottish Baronial style, and received major commissions from the age of 20 until his death at 80.

Burn was born on Rose Street in Edinburgh, the son of an architect, Robert Burn. After training with the architect Sir Robert Smirke, designer of the British Museum, he returned to Edinburgh in 1812 where he established his practice.

He was living and working at 131 George Street in the New Town, Edinburgh in the 1830s. He a master of many styles, but all are typified by well-proportioned simplicity externally and frequent stunning interiors. He worked in London from 1844. He died at 6 Stratton Street in Piccadilly, London, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, on the edge of the path to the Anglican Chapel.

Burn designed Muckross House in the Tudor Gothic style with 65 rooms, and it is a highly successful example of the Tudor Gothic or Elizabethan Revival style, then popular in Ireland. The array of tall chimneys, oriels, stepped gables, finials and mullioned windows are all skilfully integrated into a crisp composition

Muckross House has an asymmetrical entrance front that gives way to a symmetrical garden front where a series of reception rooms open en suite. Handsome bay windows define each front and show cut-sandstone mullioned dressings. Overhead, the steep gables are crowned by spiky finials, while elongated grouped chimney stacks embellish the roofline. The interior was built with the same magnificence as the exterior, although the rooms have now lost most of their original Victorian furnishings.

The cost of building the house is estimated at £30,000. It was originally intended that the house would also include an extensive servants’ quarters, a stable block, an orangery and a summer house. But the scale of the project was cut back at the behest of Mary Herbert who, although living most of the year in England, arranged a number of fundraisers to assist tenants on the estate during the Great Famine (1845-1849).

The imposing porte cochère at Muckross House was added by William Atkins (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The imposing porte cochère at Muckross was a later ‘improvement’ completed to a design in 1857 by William Atkins (1812-1887) of Cork, who was also responsible for farm buildings, a gateway with accompanying lodge, and the nearby Holy Trinity Church (Muckross) at Cloghereen.

William Atkins was a nephew by marriage of the architect George Richard Pain and was his apprentice. The architects George Richard Pain (1793-1838) and his elder brother James Pain (1779-1877) were responsible for many public and church buildings throughout Co Limerick.

Atkins married his cousin Louisa Gelston (1812-1904) in 1845. Two years later, he inherited half the estate of his grandfather William Atkins at Fountainville, and he farmed the property until 1854. In the second half of the 1860s, he designed several new Church of Ireland churches, which suggests he may have been a district architect for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at this time.

His works include the Leamy School in Hartstonge Street, Limerick, Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, Aghadoe House, Killarney, Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Killarney, and the Church of Ireland parish church in Ardfert, Co Kerry. He died on 5 January 1887.

Queen Victoria arrived in Killarney on Monday 26 August 1861. The royal party spent their first night at Killarney House, the seat of the Earl of Kenmare, where the visit was considered a formal state occasion. However, her two-night stay at Muckross was regarded as a private affair, with the local press reporting that ‘her Majesty … had declared her intention of being ‘very quiet’ while at Muckross.’

Queen Victoria arrived at Muckross with Valentine Augustus Browne (1825-1905), 4th Earl of Kenmare, as her escort. The Times reported she was met by her hosts on the lawns at the door of the house and a gathering of ladies and gentlemen greeted her enthusiastically.

On entering the house, Queen Victoria would have seen the Persian carpets, mirrors and tapestries specially commissioned for her visit. The curtains still hanging in the dining room are believed to have been woven in Brussels or Paris, while an heraldic sideboard was imported from Italy. New china, linen and silverware were used at the meals, while the servants were dressed in new uniforms.

A suite of rooms commanding panoramic vistas overlooking Lough Leane and Muckross Lake was reserved at Muckross House for the exclusive use of Queen Victoria (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A suite of rooms commanding panoramic vistas overlooking Lough Leane and Muckross Lake was reserved for the exclusive use of the queen. with the Kerry Evening Post reporting that ‘an entire section of the mansion has been set apart for the royal family, so that all their apartments communicate without the necessity of passing into the corridors to be used by other occupants of the house. … In her sitting room – which, like all others, is a splendid apartment furnished richly and tastefully – there is a series of views of the Lakes of Killarney, painted by Mrs Herbert. They are works of the highest artistic excellence.’

Queen Victoria visited Torc Waterfall with Mary Balfour Herbert (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The following day, Queen Victoria, accompanied in her carriage by Mrs Herbert, drove around the demesne, visiting Dinish Island, Mangerton Mountain and the Torc Waterfall. After lunch, the party embarked at the boathouse to view a stag hunt on the lake. The queen probably planted some trees ceremonially, and a copse near the site of the old stable yard was known as the ‘Queen’s Trees.’

Ladies’ View, 17 km south of Killarney (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Ladies’ View, 17 km south of Killarney, takes its name from the pleasure expressed by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting when they visited the place.

On the morning she left, Queen Victoria visited the ruins of the 15th century Muckross Abbey in the grounds. Eleanor, the eldest Herbert daughter, remarked that the Queen ‘is to have ivy from the Abbey and ferns from various places sent to Osborne [the royal palace on the Isle of Wight] as recollections of this place.’

Before leaving Killarney, Queen Victoria presented Mrs Herbert with a bracelet of gold, pearls and diamonds. In return, Mrs Herbert presented three of her watercolours, The Upper Lake, The Middle Lake from Copper Mine Bay and The Lower Lake with Fir Island; these paintings are still held in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

Muckross House and estate were inherited by Colonel Herbert’s son, Major Henry Arthur Herbert (1840-1901). He married Emily Julia Charlotte Keane (1848-1911) from Cappoquin, Co Waterford, a daughter of Edward Arthur Wellington Keane (1815-1882), 2nd Baron Keane.

However, the cost associated with the improvements to house and the entertainment of Queen Victoria had contributed to the family’s financial difficulties, along with the loss of rental income and ill-advised financial investments. The estate was put up for auction by the Standard Life Assurance Company in 1899, but it was withdrawn from sale because of a lack of interest at the time.

Later that year, Muckross was sold to Arthur Edward Guinness (1840-1915), 1st Baron Ardilaun, of Ashford Castle, Co Galway, who was related by marriage to the Herbert family. He wanted to preserve the dramatic landscape, but he did not live in the house himself. Instead, he rented the house to wealthy groups as a seasonal hunting lodge.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Muckross House and its demesne were again in 1911 sold to William Bowers Bourn II (1857-1936), a wealthy Californian entrepreneur and mining magnate. William and wife Agnes Bowers Bourn gave Muckross to their daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent as a wedding present.

The couple lived there until Maud died from pneumonia in 1929. While they were living there, the improvements they made cost over £110,000 and included building the Rock Garden, the Stream Garden, and the Sunken Garden (1915).

The Muckross Estate forms the heart of the Killarney National Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Three years later, Maud’s parents and her widowed husband, Senator Arthur Rose Vincent (1876-1956), decided to present Muckross House and the 11,000 acre estate to the Irish nation in 1932, on the understanding that its peace and tranquillity would never be disturbed by the sound of motor cars. It was called the ‘Bourne-Vincent Memorial Park,’ it became the first National Park in the Republic of Ireland and it formed the basis of the present-day Killarney National Park. In later years, the park was substantially expanded with the acquisition of land from the former estate of the Earls of Kenmare.

Killarney National Park is now a magnificent park extended to more than 10,000 hectares, including the three Lakes of Killarney and surrounding mountains and woodland. The park is today administered and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, while Muckross House is managed jointly by the Office of Public Works and the Trustees of Muckross House.

Muckross House was restored in two stages from 1983 to 1995. The second stage included the redecoration of the billiard room, dining room, boudoir and Queen Victoria’s bedroom and dressing room. The boudoir in the suite of rooms reserved exclusively for Queen Victoria was restored in 1990-1995, and the décor and furnishings were based on photographs of the room taken in 1865. Surviving furniture was restored and supplemented by period furniture of the Victorian era.

The Trustees of Muckross House organised a Herbert family reunion at Muckross House in 1999. An exhibition of watercolours by Mary Balfour Herbert was part of the special occasion. For the first time in 100 years, members of the Herbert family gathered at Muckross House, with widely scattered family members and descendants coming from England and America. Many of them were previously unaware of each other’s existence.

The Herbert Family held a reunion at Muckross House in 1999, organised by the Trustees of Muckross House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 41:
Lichfield 9: Third Fall

‘Third Fall’ … Station 9 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus falls for the third time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is Holy Week and the last week in Lent. Throughout Holy Week, there are special services in each of the churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This evening, this service is Evening Prayer at 8 p.m.in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are guided by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. These are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last month and continues until the end of Lent.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

Lichfield 9: ‘Third Fall’

For these last two weeks in Lent, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield. Since I was a 19-year-old, I have regarded this chapel as my spiritual home.

The Ninth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus falls for the third time.’ But in the Ninth Station in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there are two simple words in plain capital letters: ‘Third Fall.’

In this station in Saint John’s, Christ has stumbled and fallen for a third time. The Roman soldier who has been whipping and goading him all along the way now seems tired and exhausted too, as he tries to hold up an arm of the cross with both hands, his whip hanging limply in one hand, without any hint of a gesture to move Christ on with force.

Christ holds onto his cross with one hand, but with both arms he embraces the jagged rock that has broken his fall and that must be bruising his already much-bruised body.

Psalm 18 refers to God as ‘my rock, my fortress and my deliverer’ (verse 2), and Psalm 95 speaks of God as ‘the rock of our salvation’ (verse 1). But this morning I am reminded of the words of the Prophet Habakkuk: ‘The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster] will respond from the woodwork’ (Habakkuk 2: 11).

These words of Habakkuk are recalled in Saint Luke’s account of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out’ (Luke 19: 37-40).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
O thou Mother! Fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above.
Make my heart with thine accord.


Brutalised. Dazed. Beyond strength.
Now nearly on Calvary’s broad summit, Jesus collapses.
Poles long set into the ground are silhouetted against grey clouds.
Impatiently, Jesus is pulled up and shoved angrily toward his death.


Loving Lord, you fell that we might rise and taught us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Help us to die to ourselves so that we might live to you and bear much fruit for your Kingdom. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, your journey has been long. You fall again, beneath your cross. You know your journey is coming to an end. You struggle and struggle. You get up and keep going.

The Collect of the Day (Monday in Holy Week):

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: ‘Stripped’ … Station 10 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus is stripped of his clothes.

Yesterday’s reflection

The Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital seen on Saint John Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)