20 August 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
83, Saint Mary’s Church, Loughrea

The Carmelite buildings on Abbey Street are enhanced by the lawns and gardens to the front, and the older church and graveyard to the south (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting 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.

My theme this week is churches in the Carmelite tradition, and my photographs this morning (20 August 2021) are from Saint Mary’s Carmelite Church and Abbey on Abbey Street, Loughrea, Co Galway.

Inside the abbey church, rebuilt in 1897 by William Byrne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Carmelites began working on new buildings beside the mediaeval monastic site in Loughrea in 1785. A new church was completed in 1820 under the supervision of Father Gannon, the superior at the time, who also supervised the construction of the monastery and the convent.

The Carmelite nuns continued to live in Barrack Street, Loughrea, until Mount Carmel Monastery was built in 1831. As they were engaged in teaching, the nuns did not become an enclosed order until 1859.

The new abbey church was almost completely rebuilt in the Romanesque style in 1897, to designs by William Henry Byrne, who also designed Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea, at the same time.

The intricate foliate detailing on this church in the Italian Romanesque style illustrates the artistic skills of stone carvers of the late 19th century. This delicate carving can be seen throughout the church, from the ornate façade to the tracery windows, making it a natural focal point for the monastic complex as well as one of the finest buildings in Loughrea.

The marble altar is by Edmund Sharp. The stained glass windows by Phyllis Burke include Edith Sten (ca 1995-1996) and the Good Shepherd (2002)

The gable-front presents a highly decorative appearance, emphasised by its elaborate arcaded entrance, and the decorative tower knits it to the other monastic buildings. The buildings are enhanced by the lawns and gardens to the front, and the older church and graveyard to the south.

Around the same time, a national school was built close to the entrance gate.

Successive alterations and additions have taken place since then, with the addition of a new residence in 1991.

Today, the Teresian Carmelite nuns who live in the monastery are dedicated to a life of prayer.

The existence of the ‘new’ abbey beside the mediaeval ruin bears testimony to an almost continued presence of Carmelites in Loughrea since the 1300s.

Inside the abbey church, facing the liturgical west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Matthew 22: 34-40 (NRSVA):

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37 He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

The ecstasy of Saint Teresa … surrounded by Carmelite saints (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (20 August 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for St Paul’s Church in the Diocese of Ho, in Ghana.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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

Saint John of the Cross depicted in a window in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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