14 December 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
16, Monday 14 December 2020

A glimpse of one of the west doors of Lichfield Cathedral through the entrance to Darwin House and Herb Garden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

In addition, the Dean and clergy of Lichfield Cathedral are holding three vigils on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, 13, 14 and 15 December, from 7 to 9 p.m. each evening, ending with Compline. There is a variety of places to stop, think, look, and pray, with places to sit, stand, kneel or rest. The focus this evening (14 December) is ‘Meditation at the Manger.’

Visitors are invited come and see the Cathedral at night and meditate on a number of stations or stopping places, remembering when love was born to us in Jesus Christ. In an atmosphere of gentle quietness and with guided meditations, it is a time to prepare for the Christ-child to be born again this Christmas.

Monday 14 December 2020 (Saint John of the Cross):

Read Saint Matthew 14: 18-23 (NRSVA):

18 And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.


Jesus promises us intimate communion with him if we love him and make our home in him. What keeps us wanting this?

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s evening reflection

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

Revisiting the church ruins
at Castletown Conyers
in the mid-day winter sun

The church ruins in the graveyard at Castletown Conyers in the mid-day winter sun … all that survives of the mediaeval parish church of Corcomohide (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

A year after attending a funeral there, I returned earlier this month to Castletown Conyers, 5 km south of Ballingarry, on the road from Rathkeale to Charleville.

The church ruins in the graveyard at Castletown Conyers are all that survive of the mediaeval parish church of Corcomohide. But the history of this unique mediaeval settlement is being uncovered slowly and revealed as part of an effort to preserve the remains of the building known locally as ‘the Abbey.’

Today, trees are growing within the walls of the church, and in recent years a number of large stones have fallen from a height. Indeed, in places, the roots of trees and the ivy clinging to the walls appear to be the only things holding the fabric of the church together.

The archaeologist Sarah McCutcheon, who has carried out some investigations on the site, has told Norma Prendiville of the Limerick Leader that the work to stabilise the building would need to be done in several phases.

The first phase involves cutting back the trees and then drilling and treating the boles and roots. Later phases would involve repairing the cavities left by the roots, removing other vegetation, consolidating the south-east corner and north wall chancel and capping the walls.

Some work on clearing the trees and ivy has been carried out under the direction of Ms McCutcheon and the north wall has been propped up.

The conservation works on the church ruins have been promoted by the Castletown Conyers Development Association and Limerick City and County Council.

The church ruins at Castletown Conyers seen from the north-east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

‘The Abbey’ was, in fact, a parish church, and with a neighbouring motte and a castle or manor house it formed the centre of a mediaeval borough of up to 300 people that dates back to the 13th century.

Castletown or Corcomhide was the ancestral or tribal area of the Mac Eniry family, and was known as Baile CaisleĆ”in Mhic an Oighre or the town of Mac Eniry’s castle. The Mac Eniry family remained a force in this area until the late 17th century.

Castletown became the site of a mediaeval borough, with a church, a motte, and a castle or manor house. The manor of Corkemoyd was granted by Maurice FitzMaurice to his son-in-law Thomas de Clare and his wife Juliana, who in turn granted the church, in 1276, to the Cathedral of Limerick.

Inside the church ruins at Castletown Conyers, looking west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The manor was holding a weekly market by 1284, but it was destroyed by war in 1302, and the early church was destroyed that year too.

An inquisition in 1321 suggested that about 290 people were living there. Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Directory suggests the Castle at Castletown was built by the chieftain of the Mac Eniry family in 1349, and says the Mac Eniry family founded an abbey.br />
There are a number of references to the castle during the 14th century, when it was held by the de Clifford family, among others.

The later church, built in the late 14th or early 15th century, was dedicated to the Purification of the Virgin Mary on 2 February 1402 or 1410.

The east window in the church ruins at Castletown Conyers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A list of rectors and vicars of Corcomohide survives from 1387, when Dionisius alias Dermicius O’Dongan, was presented by the crown as Vicar of Saint Mary de Korkennith.

After the Reformation, the church served for some time as a Church of Ireland parish church and some alterations to the church were made in the 16th century.

The Book of Survey and Distribution in the 1660s referred to the area as Castleinenry.

The Vicars Choral of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, were the patrons of Corcomohide Parish.

The church was certainly a ruin by the time of the first Ordnance Survey in the 1830s and 1840s, there was neither glebe nor glebe house, and the vicarage was united with the vicarages of Kilmeedy and Dromcolloher.

The church in Kilmeedy was rebuilt in 1837, but it fell into disuse later in the 19th century. A new church was built at Corcomohide ca 1840.

The last Rector of Corcomohide was the Revd Joseph Adderley (1834-1915), who was Rector from 1877 until he retired in 1913. In retirement he lived in Sandymount, Dublin, and he died on 13 March 1915 when he was knocked down by a car.

When Adderley retired, the parish of Corcomohide was served by the Rectors of Ballingarry as priests-in-charge – the Revd Francis Kenny (1868-1933), who was Rector of Ballingarry in 1914-1915, and Canon David William Matthew Albert Elliott (1885-1972), who was curate-in-charge in 1915-1916, later Treasurer and then Chancellor of Killaloe.

The church in Corcomohide closed after Canon Elliott moved, and it was demolished in the 1920s.

The parish was united with Adare in 1948-1958 and then with Rathkeale from 1958. The church in Ballingarry was closed in 1978.

The church ruins at Castletown Conyers at the east end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

There are some early 18th century headstones in the churchyard, the earliest marking the grave of Cornelius Ryan, who died in 1737 at the age of 34.

Castletown Conyers acquired its present name when the estate was bought by Captain George Conyers in 1703, although Samuel Lewis said the parish of Castletown Conyers was granted to George Conyers by William III.

There is a still a reference in 1763 to ‘Castletown McEnyry.’

The Conyers vault was inserted in the west end of the church in the late 18th or early 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The Conyers vault was inserted in the west end of the church in the late 18th or early 19th century, although it is likely that the church was in ruins at this point.

Lewis noted in 1837 that Corcomohide was an ecclesiastical union, including the civil parishes of Castletown Conyers, Drumcolloher, and Kilmeedy, and had 10,742 inhabitants.

The tithes totalled to £900, of which £570 was payable to the Countess of Ormonde, as lessee under the Vicars Choral of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and £330 to the incumbent.

There were two public schools, supported by Mr Stevelly and Colonel White, and 12 private schools.

In the mid-19th century, the Conyers estate was mainly in the Parish of Kilcolman, Barony of Shanid, but also in the Parish of Corcomohide, Barony of Connello Upper, Co Limerick.

Castletown Conyers, the seat of the Conyers family, was the home of Charles Conyers (1758-1837) in the early 19th century. He was succeeded by his son, the Revd Edward Fitzgerald Conyers (1787-1854). By the time of Griffith’s Valuation, the house was in use as an auxiliary workhouse, held by the Croom Guardians from Dr William Bailey, medical doctor, and valued at £25.

Members of the Conyers family still held considerable estates in the area in the 1870s, when Charles Conyers of Castletown Conyers owned 2,425 acres, Grady FitzGerald Conyers of Liskennet owned 1,023 acres and Edward Conyers of Liskennet owned 95 acres.

The Revd Edward Fitzgerald Conyers (1787-1854) and his wife Catherine Blennerhassett were the parents of the Revd Charles Conyers, who died in 1872. He was married twice – to Agnes Graham, and Margaret Drew. Castletown Conyers was the residence of Charles Conyers in 1894.

The remains of the piscina can be traced at the east end of the south wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Major Charles Conyers (1867-1915) of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was wounded at the Battle of Ypres in 1915 and is buried at Bradhoek Military Cemetery in Belgium. There is a memorial tablet with his name in Limerick Cathedral. The Conyers family appears to have continued to live at Castletown Conyers until the 1920s.

Major Conyers married Dorothea Blood-Smith (1869-1947) of Fedamore, Co Limerick, in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, on 2 February 1892. She was the author of 54 novels and one autobiographical work of sporting reminiscences, published between 1900 and 1948.

The widowed Dorothea Conyers married Captain John Joseph White of Nantinan, Co Limerick, in University Church, Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on 25 February 1917. When Captain White died at Nantinan on 14 April 1940, he was buried at Cappagh Church. Dorothea died on 26 May 1949 and was buried at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

An opening at the east end of the north wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

A nearby holy well, known locally as Lady’s Well, is still visited regularly, and large numbers of people attend an annual Mass at the well on 15 August.

Another well, Saint Gobnait’s Well, also known as Saint Debora’s Well or Saint Deriola’s Well, was the venue for an annual pattern on 11 February, but this came to an end around 1870. The site of this well was in a high field, north of Ballagran to the left of the road to Castletown, and has long dried up.

The crumbling ruins are held together by ivy and the roots of trees (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Praying in Advent with USPG:
16, Monday 14 December 2020

‘Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ (Matthew 21: 25) … an icon of the Prophet Elijah and Saint John the Baptist in a monastery in Greece (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust later this month.

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for my own personal prayer, reflection and Scripture reading.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (13 to 19 December 2020) is ‘Reflections on Migration.’ This week’s theme is introduced in the diary by Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Monday 14 December 2020:

Let us pray for the Churches’ Refugee Network, which encourages churches in Britain and Ireland to respond more proactively to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

The Collect of the Day (Advent III):

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Matthew 21: 23-27 (NRSVA):

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s morning reflection

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